Skiing in Scotland

Skiing in Scotland
Photo by D_Dunnock

Skiing Holidays in Scotland

Skiing in Scotland is rising in popularity again as it is an excellent location to take a ski holiday. Scotland has 5 great ski resorts and in recent years there has been superb winter conditions, in many cases beating some Alpine ski areas for snowfall and coverage.

Scotland has some fine ski areas and when the snow is here, there are plenty people take skiing holidays in Scotland.

Downhill Skiing in Scotland

There are 5 downhill ski areas in Scotland: Glenshee, Glencoe, Aonach Mor, Cairngorm and Lecht. They all offer a different experience to the skier.

Glenshee covers the largest area. It is also relatively quick to get to from central Scotland. The closest towns are Blairgowrie to the south and Braemar & Ballater to the North. There are also hotels in Spittal of Glenshee, Bridge of Cally and Kirkmichael. There are 21 lifts running at Glenshee and 35 ski runs. There are two black runs at Glenshee, the most memorable being The Tiger which is a black run coming straight down the face of Cairnwell. Glenshee has a large cafe at the main car park and 2 further cafes on the hill. Snowboard and Ski instructors are available and there are good beginner runs and facilities for learning to ski. More at www.ski-glenshee.co.uk

Glencoe is a relatively small resort but it is friendly and can often have snow when eastern resorts are bereft. There are 7 ski lifts and 19 runs at Glencoe. There arer 2 black runs and loads of other good long runs. Glencoe ski centre has a restaurant at the car park and two cafes on the hill. Glencoe has also opened a very highly regarded downhill mountain biking trail that is being used for races and is open to the general public when there’s no snow. Although there is accommodation at the nearby Kingshouse hotel, nearest services are around 10 miles away in Glencoe village and Ballachulish. There are also a good number of hotels in Glencoe and Ballachulish. To the South, hotels are available at Bridge of Orchy and Tyndrum. Glencoe is the closest ski resort to Glasgow taking around 90 mins to get to. More at www.glencoemountain.com.

Nevis Range just outside Fort William is another west coast ski resort. It’s set on the north side of Aonach Mor. This northerly aspect and Western location mean that Nevis range often is in condition when skiing is not so good at the other Scottish resorts. Nevis range boasts the UK’s only mountain Gondola which, even in the summer is a tourist attraction in its own right. This resort has 12 lifts and a great mix of grades. There is a cafe at the car park and another at the top gondola station. Nevis Range also hosts a stage of the Mountain Biking World Cup each year and hosts around 40,000 spectators for this event. They have also diversified into a number of other activities to allow the ski resort to operate year round. The closest town is Fort William which has a large choice of accommodation and services but there are also some hotels to the east in and around Spean Bridge. Find out more at www.nevisrange.co.uk.

Cairngorm is another large ski resort situated on the north edge of the Cairngorm mountains. A funicular railway here helps shift large numbers of skiers up the hill quickly. Skiing at Cairngorm spans two corries and they have 12 lifts including the funicular. Lots of skiers rate this ski resort as their favourite for skiing in Scotland. There are two cafes at Cairngorm, one at the day lodge by the car park and another on the top of the mountain. The closest town is Aviemore which has a lot of hotels and self catering accommodation. The Cairngorm skiing website is at www.cairngormmountain.com.

The Lecht is Scotland’s most easterly ski resort. Often when the skiing is restricted at the other resorts, Lecht does have snow. It is also one of the best resorts for beginners to find their feet though does have challenging black runs too. Lecht has 12 lifts and a restaurant at the car park. In addition to skiing they have inner tubing and other activities including two downhill mountain bike routes open in summer. The nearest accommodation is Ballater but there are lots of hotels and self-catering accommodation in local towns such as Tomintoul, Strathdon and Braemar. Find Lecht at www.lecht.co.uk

Cross Country Skiing in Scotland

XC Skiing in Scotland near Aviemore

XC Skiing is becoming more and more popular as people realise they don’t need to bother with lift queues and busy car parks to get out in the white stuff. There is a dedicated nordic skiing centre at Huntly but many ski hire shops near the main downhill ski areas in Scotland will hire XC kit as well and can help you find routes that are holding snow. Apart from at Huntly there are no regular bashed XC trails in Scotland but by using lightweight kit around forest tracks and backcountry gear on wilder tracks will let you experience the pleasure of getting away from the crowds. There are a number of hotels around Huntly and Keith.

Ski-Mountaineering and Telemark

These are two disciplines of skiing practised by some people in Scotland. Scotlands hills often have enough snow for great days out away from the piste. High level plateaux in the Cairngorms, Monadhliath Moutains, around Glen Clova or Drumochter can often give long traverses staying above the snow line most of the day. While these days out are not usually suitable for novice skiers, there are many mountain guides in Scotland who can help with this type of skiing holiday. Find out more at the Mountaineering Council for Scotland.

What about the weather? What if there’s no snow for my skiing holiday in Scotland?

It’s true that the snow can disappear rapidly on our slopes even in the depth of winter but if the worst should happen, there are plenty of other outdoors activities that can make your holiday memorable. Biking, hiking, rafting, paddling and loads more activities are available year-round in Scotland.

The last couple of winters have had excellent skiing conditions across all the Scottish Ski centres. Fingers crossed for the rest of this winter.

Our Skiing in Scotland Recommendations

For the most authentic Scottish skiing experience we recommend basing yourself in Aviemore or Fort William. Both are great all year round destinations with lots of accommodation, places to eat and other entertainment. As long as you have transport, from both these locations you can reach more than one ski resort quickly. Also if you find the east has snow but the west does not or vice versa, it is not a massive drive to go from Aviemore to Fort William or indeed the other way. If cross country, ski touring or telemark is your aim then basing yourself around Aviemore should give you the best access to trails or high mountain areas.

As with any weather dependant sport, you are not guaranteed good conditions so it may be wise to make some contingency plans in case of poor conditions. Luckily there are a lot of year round tourist attractions and activities to keep you occupied in Scotland if the skiing isn’t perfect.

Good Skiing in Scotland Resources

Skiing at Visit Scotland
Mountain Weather Information Service
Scotland Avalanche Information Service