Don’t hate me, but just last month I was able to strap on my skis and get down the slopes.
Admittedly, not anywhere in Europe or beyond, but in my very own home country, Scotland.
We’ve recently had the best snowfall in years – up to 14 inches at one point in February – so, despite all Scottish resorts being shut, I took advantage of being able to exercise near home to go to the Pentland Hills, the picturesque hill range on the outskirts of Edinburgh that reaches up to 1,900ft.
With skis strapped safely to my bike, the hills are just a 15-minute ride from my doorstep, granting some well-earned ski runs with views looking back across iconic Arthur’s Seat.
To have such a stunning source of nature so close to home has been a mental health lifeline amid lockdown’s Groundhog Day monotony, as I’m sure the flurry of other skiers, snowboarders and ice climbers in the Pentlands would agree.
The slopes have been so tracked out some days, you’d think you were in a lift-operated French resort.
I’ve got other fond Scottish ski memories from further back too, such as time spent with friends on the Meall A’Bhuiridh Massif near the top of Glencoe, where rugged rock faces spiked out of the snow.
To our right were a handful of blue ski runs with breathtaking views of Buachaille Etive Mor. We exited left and our speed soared as we skied into The Flypaper, a vertigo-inducing slope with a 40% gradient often cited as the steepest in-bound run in Scotland.
The Bridge of Orchy hills layered into the distance beyond, their snowy white blending into brown as they lowered towards the vast valley floor.
‘Who needs the Alps?’ we laughed, sliding our way back to the lower slopes. Well, when skiing conditions are this good you don’t need the Alps at all – something to ponder when the prospect of being able to return to winter pastimes is back on the table.
Of course, skiing in Scotland isn’t always postcard-perfect. I’ve also experienced freezing cold days when the rain turns to sleet and the wind tries to blow you out of your jacket. But when conditions are right, it’s up there with the best – and this winter has been truly remarkable.
If you’re new to skiing in Scotland, there are five main options: Glencoe and Nevis Range are both in the west, and Cairngorm Mountain, the Lecht 2090 and Glenshee are in the Cairngorms National Park. Each has been shut for most of 2021, despite the dreamy snow conditions.
‘It’s probably the best snow cover we’ve ever had,’ says Andy Meldrum, owner of Glencoe Mountain Resort. ‘Great weather, great conditions… but we’ve not been able to open. It’s frustrating, not just for ourselves but for our customers. A lot of people live year to year, waiting to get out into the mountains and get their fix of snow.’
Glencoe is the oldest ski resort in Scotland, renowned for those astounding views of Rannoch Moor and the Buachaille. Andy says the resort is ready to go whenever government restrictions allow.
‘We remain quite hopeful,’ he says. ‘As things start to improve, I’d like to think skiing will be one of the first things to get the green light to come back. It normally takes months for the snow to disappear here so we’ll probably have great conditions right through to the end of April or beginning of May.’
Andy jokes that skiers should be ready for two-person chairs rather than the heated gondolas of Val d’Isère. And if customers can come this year, he suggests they spend a few days exploring the surrounding area as well as skiing or snowboarding to ensure they get the full Highland experience.
‘Come for an outdoor activity holiday, not just for the skiing,’ he says. ‘If we look at previous years, we’ll have some amazing days interspersed with not so good days and the occasional blizzard. But there are plenty of things to do, whether it’s whisky distilleries or indoor ice walls.’
If it’s your first time skiing in Scotland, whichever resort you pick – with Highland views, snow aplenty and whisky to boot – it won’t be your last. Just remember to pack your big coat.
The Big Five scotland’s ski hot spots
Two hours from the Cairngorms, Glencoe offers snowboarding and skiing across 20 runs, catering to all levels. The variety of terrain includes the longest and steepest runs in Scotland.
Visit glencoemountain.co.uk for more information.
Nevis Range Fort William
Nevis Range boasts Scotland’s only ski gondola, climbing 650m up Aonach Mor, a mountain neighbouring Ben Nevis. Views of Loch Eil and Linnhe are fab, while the gondola gives backcountry access.
Visit nevisrange.co.uk for more information.
Cairngorm Mountain Aviemore
Cairngorm Mountain holds snow very well and boasts tremendous views of the eponymous mountains. The White Lady piste is iconic in Scottish skiing.
Visit cairngormmountain.co.uk for more information.
Lecht 2090 Strathdon
At Lecht 2090, you’ll find a tremendous family-friendly resort that has invested heavily in snow-making facilities to offer consistent conditions for longer in the season.
Visit lecht.co.uk for more information.
Glenshee in the Highlands is the biggest Scottish resort. It has the greatest variety of pistes, while the lengthy red run from the Glas Maol is an absolute beauty.
Visit ski-glenshee.co.uk for more information.
Want to ski further afield? Check out these options..
Ski Solutions: Worldwide
It’s never too soon to start thinking about your next overseas ski trip and specialist company Ski Solutions is encouraging people to think of booking for the season spanning winter 2021/22.
You could be enjoying a family reunion break at Club Med Alpe d’Huez, France (from £1,606pp), luxuriating at the Westin Resort & Spa in Whistler, Canada (from £1,065pp), or skiing in and out of the Myrkdalen Hotel in Myrkdalen, Norway (from £1,055pp).
Find out more information here.
Ski France: French Alps
French ski specialist Ski France is now offering contactless catering at its chalets across the French Alps, including in Tignes, Val d’Isère and Courchevel.
You’ll arrive to find the fridge stocked with food and drink, recipes to follow and dishes pre-prepared by a local deli.
Backstage chalet staff will clean and restock while you’re out and will always be at the end of a phone, with no direct contact unless you want it so you’ll be safe in your bubble.
Find out more information here.
Book a 2021/22 break to Kitzbühel in the Austrian Tirol and save £90pp. This resort in the heart of the Alps has one of the longest winter sports seasons, with more than 200 days of skiing.
Snow conditions are reliable and there are 185km of pistes. A seven-night half-board stay at the five-star Hotel Schloss Lebenberg in Kitzbühel, on a half-board basis, arriving January 8, 2022, is priced from £1,269pp based on two sharing.
Includes return flights from London Stansted to Salzburg and transfers.
Find out more information here.
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