WHILE news of an “Arctic Blast” has filled many Scots with dread, the country’s snowsports community is preparing for a bumper weekend.
Alison Grove, Snowsport Scotland’s head of events and marketing, believes this could potentially be “the biggest week of the year” for skiing and snowboarding in Scotland.
She explained: “While January was great, a warmer February means there is now a lot of pent-up appetite for snowsports in Scotland, especially as so many people who would normally travel abroad to ski have chosen not to because of the cost-of-living crisis and poor snow in the Alps.
“Looking at the forecast, this could be our biggest week of the year. A lot of people have been watching the forecast with bated breath – this is just what we’ve been waiting for!
“December’s cold snap caught us unprepared but everyone across the mountain ranges is preparing for an influx of visitors in the days ahead.”
Mountain ranges in the East – including Cairngorm Mountain, Glenshee Ski Centre and The Lecht – look set to benefit most from the change in weather. Given potential for some heavy snow in the West, there could also be some limited snowsports at Nevis Range and Glencoe.
Alison shared her advice for anyone preparing to make the most of the weather in the coming days.
She added: “There’s a lot of excitement across the community. We know it can change, but make sure to book tickets and ski hire ahead of time, and check the roads, forecast, and avalanche reports. Also keep an eye on the resort pages to see what their daily updates are.
“This could be one of the last opportunities this season, so make the most of it while you can.
“Fresh snow is clearly the key to the Scottish snow sports season, so naturally we are delighted to see long-time enthusiasts and beginners able to return to Scotland’s snowy resorts.”
Despite lack of snow in February, the ranges have continued to remain popular due to a trend towards touring and split boarding, which initially boomed during Covid.
Thanks to factory snow, beginner slopes have also remained open in most ranges. However, Snowsport Scotland has been forced to cancel all events so far this season due to the lack of snow, including the Scottish Ski & Snowboard Cross Events at Glenshee and the Banked Slalom at Nevis Range. With the change in weather, there’s renewed optimism for upcoming events, including the Scottish Slopestyle Championships on 26 March, the Coe Cup on 25 and 26 March, and the UpBattle on 18 and 19 March.
Simon Burnside, a 51-year-old from Aboyne who runs retail operations at The Lecht Ski Centre, is working around the clock with his team to prepare for the weekend. He said: “We had a great start to the season – Christmas holidays were a key time, and we had a good time from Christmas to early January. A lot of people got out and about on the mountain with most runs open.
“After the great festive season, the team did well on keeping the main runs open with a bit of snowmaking and creativity. When we got to February things ran out of steam. It slowed down dramatically. There was a drought with no precipitation, and we got hit with two weeks of mild weather which obliterated our solid base. That took most centres to man-made snow in the nursery area. We missed out on the February half-term which was very frustrating.”
“However, we’ve been encouraged by what we’ve seen in the last 24 hours, and looking forward to the next 48 hours, we’re excited for the next blast of winter. It will encourage people to come out again, people have been starved during February. Because it’s quite early in March, it’s going to spur people on – we’re very excited to get a good few runs open. Snowfall has filled in some runs, but more is required. The guys are excited – if it’s a good weekend and we get the good runs open we could be looking forward to the best weekend of the year.”
Although more Scots are pressing pause on continental ski trips in favour of domestic slopes due to the cost-of-living crisis, increased financial pressures have had an impact on the running of ski slopes too.
As Simon explained: “Rising costs have made the snowmaking question a little bit more poignant. Before, snow cannons would be cranking out 24/7 but the cost of producing the snow is now significantly higher. We’re having to think more carefully about how and when to use them.
“We’ve also invested in our new snowpark project to replace the old park at The Lecht. The first few features are on the way, and we hope to be able to debut them this season and we’ll definitely be shouting about it this month.
“European ski holidays are a lot more expensive, so we’ve noticed people keen to take advantage of what’s in Scotland. Tickets in Scotland are offering huge value for money in comparison.”
For more information on specific opening dates, prices and lift openings, visit Ski-Scotland‘s website . For more on Snowsport Scotland and its activities, visit www.snowsportscotland.org.