“If you can ski Scotland, you can ski anywhere”

Make no mistake; this is not a reference to the variable snow surety that has affected Scotland over the last few years. Ask any local or regular of Scotland’s five resorts – if the conditions hit just right, Scotland offers the best skiing you can find anywhere in the world.

Scotland’s five resorts are spread across the central Highlands, from Ben Nevis in the west to the north-eastern Cairngorms. Whilst all are comparatively small compared to the behemoths of the Alps, they all offer a good variety of terrain for all skill-levels and include some brilliant off-piste areas if the conditions are good.

In addition, the lower, rolling nature of Scottish mountains opens a vast amount of terrain for backcountry touring. This is especially true of the Cairngorms National Park, where the three resorts in the region offer a huge range of back bowls and untouched terrain. Aviemore and Cairngorm Mountain is home to the Scottish National Outdoor Centre at Glenmore Lodge, providing instruction on a range of mountain activities in both winter and summer.

Even though the snow conditions can be variable, the outdoor pedigree of the central highlands remains unmatched almost anywhere in the world. Bring your hiking or mountaineering gear and get lost in the stunning beauty of one of Britain’s most incredible regions!

 

A few years ago, Ski Club hit up Nevis Range and the Back Corries, and made this video giving you a taste of what off-piste skiing can be like in Scotland.

Cairngorm Mountain

Situated to close to the town of Aviemore and home to the Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre at Glenmore Lodge, Aviemore and Cairngorm Mountain is a hub for Scottish and British outdoor activities.

Cairngorm Mountain is Scotland’s favourite resort, with a well-developed surface lift system opening up two bowls (or “corries”, from the Scots Gaelic word “coire”) with a wide variety of terrain available for all abilities.

The Day Lodge at the base offers a café, shop, hire facilities and public facilities. Capacity has been reduced in recent years as the funicular railway, serving the base, middle and upper stations of the hill, has been out of commission awaiting repairs. Debates as to its future have been ongoing, but the lift system in place offers plenty of capacity even in the busiest periods.

Variable snow conditions are supplement by a good snow-cannon system in place at the resort’s base, meaning the lower nursery slopes are always open through the winter for those looking to start or tune-up their skiing experience!

Cairngorm Mountain can act as an access point to the entire Cairngorm plateau, opening up touring opportunities for those that like to go uphill as well as down. 

Getting Here: Aviemore, a major highland town, lies on the main A9 road between Perth and Inverness, and acts as a base town for the resort, about 10 miles away. Regular busses link the resort in winter or taxis are widely available.

Aviemore station is served by regular trains to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness. A daily daytime service runs direct to London King’s Cross via Newcastle, Darlington and York, and the famous Caledonian Sleeper runs every night (except Saturdays) to London Euston, via Preston and Crewe. Inverness Airport, 50 miles to the north, is served by flights to London, Belfast, Birmingham and Manchester. Ski Club’s resort page for Cairngorm Mountain can be found here.

Nevis Range

In the shadow of Britain’s tallest mountain lies one of Scotland’s largest resorts, Nevis Range. Easily accessible from Fort William and Scotland’s west coast, Nevis Range offers a great variety of terrain and some of Scotland’s best off-piste in the famous Back Corries.

The resort base offers equipment rental and ticket offices, with a cable car taking you up to the snowline, where the Snowgoose Restaurant offers a café, facilities and a first aid post. One of the better lift systems, including chairlifts, takes you to the summit, where the vista across Fort William, Loch Linnhe and the Great Glen to Loch Lochy is superb.

From the summit, it’s easy to head east and find the Back Corries. These are a series of gullies and itinerary routes that open up into a huge bowl, where conditions are such that you can regularly find some of the best powder in Scotland. Owing to its proximity to the Atlantic coast and its exposure perched high on the Nevis plateau, conditions can be variable, with strong winds and poor visibility threatening to shut the top of the mountain. Check out Nevis Range’s website for details on snow, weather, and any adverse conditions expected.

 

Getting Here: Nevis Range is situated a couple of miles from Fort William, a hub for the western highlands. Fort William Station sees 3 trains a day to Glasgow, and the famous Caledonian Sleeper service direct to London via Glasgow, Edinburgh, Preston and Crewe, every night except Saturdays. Note that this will arrive at Fort William mid-morning and departs between 1800 and 2000 in the evening.

 

Nevis Range lies just off the A86 main road between Fort William and Kingussie/Dalwhinnie. Inverness, Aviemore, Perth, Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow can all be reached from these points. A bus stop on the main road is served by the N41 to Fort William or Roy Bridge, and inter-city coaches to Inverness and Glasgow. The nearest airports are Glasgow or Inverness, both of which lie a fair distance away.

 

Ski Club’s resort page for Nevis Range can be found here.

Glencoe Mountain Resort

Lying in the famous Glen Coe valley just south of Fort William, close to the formidable Rannoch Moor, Glencoe Mountain Resort acts as a gateway to the highlands for a range of outdoor activities year-round.

With a dry slope at the resort base, Glencoe can offer skiing year-round. For the truly hardy, camping pitches and micro-huts make up for the distance to town – Glencoe or Bridge of Orchy villages are about 13 miles away in each direction, Fort William 30 miles distant.

The resort base offers plenty of parking and a café, kit hire and public facilities. There are then two more “bases” on the hill itself, with the Plateau Café next to the sledging and transceiver parks and hosting a first aid post as well as public facilities.

On the hill, there is a good variety of terrain but geared towards beginners, with plenty of blues and greens down the west side of the main basin and onto the plateau in the middle of the hill. If the conditions are good and the snow cannons have been allowed to do their job, access is available right to the base. The eastern side of the basin offers some brilliant tougher stuff, with Flypaper being one of the best steep runs in Scotland. From the summit of Meall a’Bhuiridh you can reach Dragon Bowl to the west, offering an adventure for even serious skiers – be warned, it is a considerable hike back up once you’re in!

*** N.B. the café at the resort base was subject to severe damage due to fire in December 2019. A temporary solution has been provided, but with limited interior space, seated accommodation may be limited through a coronavirus-hampered season***

Getting Here: Even though Glencoe Mountain Resort is comparatively isolated compared to other resorts, it is still relatively easy to access. It is served by the A82 main road, linking Fort William and Crainlarich, from which Perth, Stirling, Glasgow and Edinburgh can all be reached easily. Nearest airport is Glasgow, although this is still a considerable distance away.

Fort William acts as the nearest transport hub, although the bus stop at the end of the access road is served by inter-city coaches to and from Glasgow and Fort William. Both Fort William and nearby – although with no direct access - Bridge of Orchy stations see three trains a day to/from Glasgow Queen Street, and the famous Caledonian Sleeper between Fort William and Glasgow, Edinburgh, Preston, Crewe and London Euston.

Ski Club’s resort page for Glencoe can be found here.

Glenshee

Nestled in the southern edge of the Cairngorm Mountains National Park, Glenshee Ski and Snowboard Centre is Scotland’s largest resort, covering two faces either side of the A93 at Cairnwell Pass, part of an historic network of 18th century military roads and now the highest A-road in the UK.

The western face, serving Butchart’s Coire (from which we take the word “corrie”, or bowl) offers a fantastic range of terrain from the summit at Carn Aosda all the way down to the resort base. The ridge leading to the Cairnwell summit on the southwestern boundary provides access to some classic bowl lines through Thunderbowl and back to the base, as well as opening up the bowl to the west.

To the east, a network of surface lifts takes you up and over into Coire Fionn Bowl, where the Glas Maol poma takes you up close to the summit of Glas Maol, the highest mountain in the local area. The West Wall area presents a good challenge to experienced skiers, with a tricky drop-in over the cornice to get back to the Coire Fionn and Glas Maol chairs, and the face of Coire Fionn a gentler experience into a gully and back to the same lifts. Glas Maol run itself is considered one of the best runs in Scotland.

Both sides of the resort offer public facilities and a café on the mountain, at the focus point of Butchart’s Coire on the western side and at the base of Cainlochain lift on the eastern. The resort base itself offers public facilities, a café, ski school, and a hire shop – note that hire kit has to be booked 48hrs in advance due to high demand!

Getting here: Glenshee is one of the more isolated resorts, with extremely limited public transport options. The nearest station is Pitlochry, on the highland mainline between Perth and Inverness, but there is no direct link between the station and the resort

The A93 Old Military Road bisects the south-eastern Cairngorms, and connects Blairgowie in the south to Ballater in the north – from here, any of Dundee, Perth and Stirling can be reached in less than two hours, with Aberdeen, Glasgow and Edinburgh a little further away, at around two hours.

Note that the A93 can be subject to delays and closure during periods of inclement weather – so plan ahead carefully if you suspect a powder day might be looming!

Ski Club’s resort page for Glenshee can be found here.

The Lecht

Lying alongside the A939 road in the north-eastern Cairngorms, The Lecht is the smallest of the Scotland’s five alpine resorts. However, its proximity to the towns of Aberdeenshire and Moray make it a useful resort for many, and it is able to offer better snow surety than some others.

The resort occupies two faces either side of the A939 Lecht Road between Cockbridge and Tonitoul – infamous for being closed in the winter due to the snow, modern clearing techniques and changes in weather patterns means access is far more reliable in all conditions.

The southwestern face is the resort’s main skiing area, reaching from the Harrier chair on the summit of Beinn a’ Chruinnich and running along the ridgeline heading southwards to the Eagle 1 & 2 lifts. Terrain variety is good for a small resort, with plenty of blues towards this southern end and a handful of good red and blacks emanating from the summit.

The north-eastern face is served by one lift, Buzzard, and opens up a pair of red runs back to the lift and a blue back to the resort base. The north-eastern face opens onto a gently undulating plateau, allow tourers and hikers the chance to explore the terrain beyond. Over the ridge on the opposite side lies a back bowl and gulley for the adventurous, although will require a long hike out!

At the resort base you can find the day lodge, with plenty of parking and a restaurant, toilets, first aid post and the Lecht Ski School. Equipment hire is available, and it is strongly recommended you book ahead (before 4pm the day before your visit) to secure your kit.

Getting Here: The Lecht sits on the A939 Lecht Road, which connects Grantown-on-Spey to the northwest with Huntly to the east and Ballater to the southeast. From these points, Aviemore, Inverness and Aberdeen are all easily accessible. The road can be severely effected by inclement weather, so it is strongly recommended to have winter tyres and taking additional precautions when driving during the winter.

The nearest village is Tomintoul around a ten-minute drive away, with accommodation and restaurant facilities. There is no public transport connection to either The Lecht or Tomintoul. Aberdeen airport, with good connections to the rest of the UK and Europe, lies some 50 miles away, but has no public connections to the local area. Aviemore station is the closest, but again, this is some 35 miles away with no connection to the resort.

Ski Club’s resort page for The Lecht can be found here.