If you can Ski Scotland, you can ski anywhere!
The Scottish highlands have one of the harshest mountain climates in Europe, in fact the Cairngorms are officially designated as a sub-arctic plateau. This makes skiing in Scotland a somewhat unusual and unpredictable experience. The Scottish mountains certainly get a lot of snow, unfortunately because of the prevailing maritime climate and the associated large fluctuations in temperature, large accumulations of the type seen in the Alps are far less common. Persistently strong winds will also tend to blow away the snow from exposed ridges, making the snow cover somewhat inconsistent, especially at lower altitudes.
However, in spite of this a long established ski industry has grown up in the highlands, with skiing recorded in the area of Glencoe from the 1930’s onwards, although the first lift was not installed until 1956. There are now five proper ski centres in the central Scottish highlands, with around 70 lifts between them. Because of the prevailing weather, the majority of these lifts are surface lifts, though there are also a small number of chair lifts, a gondola at Nevis and Cairngorms Funicular. Scottish skiing can be a very rewarding experience if you’re patient and come properly prepared.
Day light hours during the early part of the season (December/January) are very short, with lifts closing at 3.30pm at this time of year. You may also find that the sun doesn’t get above the level of the mountains. You’ll see that most of my January pictures are very dark.
Some people might think I’m mad for wanting to ski in Scotland, it seems to be a bit of a Marmite destination. I hate Marmite, but love Scotland. Doug Bryce at HaggisTrap has written an excellent article which explains the attraction!
I’m usually to be found hanging out in the forums on the Winterhighland website as tim1mw. Come find me there! Winterhighland is the best place to go for the latest information and advice on the snow conditions in the highlands.
I’m also the maintainer of the Winterhighland Android App, which is essential for getting the latest snow reports while in the Highlands, where phone signals can be variable at best. The app is designed with special customised data compression techniques so that a full report for all areas can be downloaded using an average of 5kb of data. The should enable speedy retrieval of snow reports e
Google Earth Overlays
The resort stats quoted here are a mix of my own figures and official resort stats. All altitude figures are based on my own measurements, using a combination of GPS data and Google Earth. The “average altitude” figure is based on the average height of the lifts. Stats fans can download the full set of stats as a PDF.
The longest run and total run length figures come from official stats, either from the website or the most recent published material I can find. I suspect that the total run length figure is inflated for all areas, but this is probably common practice across the world, so these figures are probably in proportion to the “average”. I did a very rough calculation of the total run length at Glenshee a few years ago, this came about about 30% lower than the official total.