Last year’s Scottish ski season will go down in the history books as one of the most successful on record. More than 247,000 people visited the nation’s mountains last winter, nearly five times as many as during the 2016/17 season, motived by record snow depths and opening dates that extended into May.
The positive headlines have given skiing in Scotland a much needed boost and this winter Britons keen to explore the UK’s local slopes can do so with greater flexibility. Ski Scotland has launch its All Areas season ticket for winter 2018/19, which covers the country’s five ski resorts, Cairngorm, Glencoe, Glenshee, The Lecht and Nevis Range, as well as Scotland’s indoor facility Snow Factor in Glasgow.
“Last season was an amazing one, not only for the five ski areas but also for all our customers. From November through to season end in May, there were no fewer than 247,139 skier days recorded in the mountains,” said Andy Meldrum, chairman of Ski Scotland. Only around 50,000 were recorded in 2016/17.
A ‘skier day’ means one person who skis or snowboards on one day – many of these individuals are serial visitors and are counted each day they visit one of Scotland’s resorts.
The All Area’s ticket launched last winter with great success. “We are aware of one lady who enjoyed no fewer than 99 days skiing last winter with her All Areas Season Ticket,” said Meldrum.
The pass provides the flexibility to visit any of the five resorts on any day throughout the season, allowing skiers and snowboarders to follow the best weather and snow conditions. In total there are 140 pistes plus off-piste and backcountry itineraries across the Highlands, which are covered by the pass.
While the skiing on offer in Scotland’s resorts is limited compared to Alpine destinations it is possible to combine all five in one road trip. Ski Scotland suggests a route starting in Glenshee, 80 miles from Edinburgh, then on to the Lecht, 35 miles away. From there Cairngorm Mountain is approximately 40 miles away. The trip then continues for 65 miles west from Cairngorm to the Nevis Range. The final leg to Glencoe Mountain is 36 miles from the Nevis Range – before ending your journey in Glasgow, 80 miles away.
As well as skiing in the mountains the pass holders can benefit from one free two-hour session at the indoor slope at Snow Factor, plus 30 per cent off future visits. In an international twist the ticket also covers two days’ free access at each of Iceland’s 11 ski resorts.
Multi-resort lift passes are a popular initiative in North America, where two of the world’s biggest, the Epic pass and the Ikon pass offer skiing in up to 65 resorts for just one fee.
Following the launch of this winter’s pass in Scotland a limited number of tickets are now available. Prices start from £550 for adults and £310 for children aged five to 17. Visitors that purchased tickets last winter receive a discount, paying £480 for adult passes and £260 for children. By comparison, a day’s lift pass in Glenshee, the country’s biggest ski resort, costs £32.
“Given the cracking snow and overhead weather we had last season, snow on the mountain tops already this autumn and a guaranteed season start thanks to snow from installed TechnoAlpin snow factories, we expect these tickets to sell out fast,” said Meldrum.
Last winter Scottish resorts fought back at accusations made in a report by the Priestley International Centre for Climate at The University of Leeds of spending almost half their operating budget on artificial snow, saying the facts and research were incorrect.
Scottish resorts are doing all they can to preserve their position as a winter destination.
In April 2017 Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Scottish government’s economic and community development agency, approveD a £4 million loan to Cairngorm Mountain Limited, to build a state-of-the-art artificial ski slope and redevelop the resort’s Ptarmigan building.
More recently Cairngorm has had plans to build a dry ski slope thrown out by developers, who said it was a “textbook example of unsustainable development in the wrong place.” The plan was to build an artificial beginners slope as the current area for novices will be unavailable this season. The resort’s funicular railway, which provides access to the area, has been suspended on safety grounds.
But if natural snow falls the demand for big developments and building projects won’t be needed. Following the extreme weather last season a study into online searches carried out on Google found that during the month of February, the peak point of the ski season, two Scottish ski resorts, Glenshee and Glencoe, were the most searched for ski destinations by UK users.