On its day, the skiing right here on our doorstep in Scotland can be as good as anywhere in the world, both on piste and in the backcountry. The scenery is mind-blowing on a sunny, crisp winter’s day and each of the country’s five main ski areas offers up something different.
Unfortunately, Scottish ski conditions are unpredictable – despite recent investment in snowmaking – so booking late, staying flexible and preparing yourself for a bit of wind are vital assets when planning a trip up to the Scottish Highlands.
Cairngorm Mountain above Aviemore has been the hub of Scottish snowsports for years, but the closure last season of its principal access lift – the funicular – saw a drastic drop in visitor numbers. The key lift will be out of action again this winter, but the resort has invested heavily in snowmaking so hopefully the lower slopes will be open and the top will be accessible when enough snow falls. Once open, the resort is home to some fine terrain, including the beginner friendly Ptarmigan Bowl and the renowned White Lady for steeper groomed terrain.
To the south of Cairngorm lies Scotland’s biggest resort of Glenshee. Set either side of the stunning A93 road, there are two main areas, bolstered in recent years by new chairlifts and enhanced snowmaking options. The Cairnwell lifts to the west of the road include the infamous Tiger slope and a series of good groomed runs. Over the road, the Sunnyside lifts take you towards the jewel in the resort’s crown, the steep slopes of Glas Maol.
The third resort in the east of the country lies further north and at the lowest altitude, however Lecht has invested in an all-weather Snowfactory to ensure reliable conditions for learners throughout the season. When all lifts are open, there’s some great terrain on offer but the runs here are shorter than elsewhere.
Across on the west coast, the weather is a bit more fickle, but snowfall totals are higher and this means that the natural gullies forming the Glencoe ski area pack in with deep drifts each winter. This means it generally opens up a bit later than other resorts – although its beginner slopes open each December thanks to their Snowfactory. But once open, the skiing is fantastic and will only improve further when the new Plateau Chairlift is installed in time for next season.
Nevis Range completes the set. Its location above the town of Fort William makes it convenient, as is the gondola accessing the slopes, but the main attraction is the stunning views over to neighbouring Ben Nevis and on a clear day, the Isle of Skye. The front of the mountain is home to some good intermediate and beginner terrain, but the advanced and expert off piste in the Back Corries is what sets this resort apart. These lift-served gullies, bowls and cornice drops offer spectacular skiing in good conditions – if you’re lucky the skiing here is world-class.