Ski Sunday – ski for Ski-tland

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow … the message from skiers looking to swap the Alps for the Skitland this season.

Covid restrictions have shut down travel between the UK and the continent.

With the French, Italian and German authorities all announcing that they will not open their resorts until well into the new year.

And with lockdown there has been an increase in interest from Down South in our five Scottish ski resorts.

Glencoe for snow

Winter wonderland: Glencoe

Glencoe Mountain Resort, the oldest in Britain, opened its doors earlier this month, and at the ideal time too with the arrival of snow.

Andy Meldrum, managing director of Glencoe said: “We have opened now for sledging and snow fun for kids initially.

“We’ve had about 20cms of snow, but we need a bit more and we’re ­currently making more snow.

“We will open for skiing on December 19 at the latest but if we got a lot of fresh snow before then we’ll open early.”

North stars

Glencoe is benefitting from ­being one of the safest Covid areas in ­Scotland.

Amd Andy believes that will act as a big incentive.

“We’re in a level 1 area here at the moment and I think there’s quite a lot of demand from local people to go ­skiing.

”And to get their kids out in the snow and playing.

“We expect to do a turn.

“We’ve just got our fingers crossed that the ­guidance allows people to come from further afield.”

And when they do Glencoe believes visitors will be rushing back.

Andy added: “It’s a good opportunity for us to showcase what ­Scotland can do.

“One of the things that happened in March was that we had a lot of ­people come from Down South who had ­never been skiing before.

“And because we had amazing conditions last March a lot of them went away just blown away by the quality of the conditions.

“”A lot of people who had never considered skiing in Scotland did it in March because their holiday abroad crashed.

”They had a great time and we’re pretty hopeful we can do it again this winter.

Season of pistes

Mountains to yourself: Glencoe

“Some of them already have bought season passes for this season.

”We’ve had people from down south who have never done that before but are doing it now.

“And that, long-term, could have a big impact on Scottish skiing.

“I think if you look at the figures over the last few years Scottish skiing has enjoyed 200,000 skier days on average.

”But according to the Ski Club of Great Britain there are something like between 25 and 30 million skier days in the UK.

“But most of them are going to Europe or abroad.

”So even if just a small percentage turn their ­attentions to Scotland it could be a major long-term boon for the industry.

In the money

And the crowds are coming back

Skiers are believed to inject almost £31m into the local economy each winter according to the Scottish Parliament Information Centre’s 2018 report.

And VisitScotland estimates that for every £1 spent on Scottish slopes, £4 more is spent in the areas around Cairngorm, Glencoe, Glenshee, Nevis Range and The Lecht.

With hopes for greater numbers on our mountains this winter the resorts have already been planning.

On how to meet social distance requirements.

Cairngorm plans an online ticket system for advance bookings and ski hire.

And a move for some of its ski-hire off-site and for people to collect their skis the night before.

“While people are advised to keep to their bubbles on two and three-man chairlifts and ­T-bar lifts.

A different winter

We’ve got thus down to a T.

Glenshee is factoring in poorer snowfall to its calculations.

And the possibility that only lower runs that use manufactured snow-cannon with ticket sales then limited to 150 a day.

And The Lecht is hoping to make up for the curtailment of their last ski season.

A spokeswoman said: “As always our hopes for the season are to have lots of snow and a busy season ahead.

“Obviously it was a little disappointing last year that the snow came late on and we had to close due to the Covid pandemic.”

While Glencoe believes that skiing is well suited to adapt to the new normal.

Just the ticket

Andy Meldrum added: “We for the first time,  and I know the other runs have done the same, have put in quite sophisticated ski ticketing for this year.

‘’For this year for us, and some of the other areas, it’s pre-booked ­tickets only.

”So people will have had to ­confirm before they come.

“That then means we can strictly control the numbers of people on each individual day.

”Because our big concern is that in the past we’ve never been able to do that.

“And with what could be an additional demand this year we didn’t want 2000 skiers turn up when we can only cope with 800.

The beautiful South

And somewhere to dry off

Glencoe’s experience is borne out across the Scottish sector with Nevis Range also optimistic about the season ahead when they reopen.

Chris O’Brien, CEO at Nevis Range, said: “We had a fantastic August with a record amount of mountain bikers.

”And those mountain bikers are people who would have normally gone to the Alps.”

“So we would expect that the same thing would happen in the winter for skiing.

“Once we’ve got the conditions and people are allowed to travel to us we’ll be open and looking to welcome visitors.”

The Ski Club of Great Britain ­reports that the appetite is certainly growing for trips north.

Both from the Scottish Lowlands and down in ­England and Wales.

Their spokesman said: “Scotland has some of the best skiing in the world.

Centres of excellence

“It’s better value skiing in Scotland and better accessibility and you can do it in the weekend which you can’t really do with the Alps.

“And definitely for families as well.

“And particularly if you do live in Scotland it’s really easy to get to somewhere from Glasgow and Edinburgh and anywhere north of there too.

“It’s the perfect place to start skiing.”

*For more info on opening times, follow the sites.

*This article was first published in the Sunday National.

And for more fun on the slopes, or The Adventures of Bambi on Snow read Soll Mates on this site.