A Guide to Scottish Skiing - MeanderApparel

December 01, 2023 11 min read

If you can learn to ski in Scotland you can ski anywhere! At least that’s what I was told growing up, spending many a chilly winter's day on the slopes of  the Glencoe and Nevis Range resorts. You may have to dodge the odd rock or tuft of grass and put up with the sometimes icy winds, but the high of skiing on your home turf is something that never gets old. It is a lot cheaper than a trip to Meribel and with last winter's exceptionally mild season in the Alps, a last minute trip to Scotland may get you that snow fix.

You may be surprised to learn that Scotland has five ski resorts, although they may not be as polished or as large as our European and American counterparts, their rugged beauty, affordability and accessibility makes them a great alternative. There are resorts suited for the adrenaline junkies looking for their next black run as well as ski areas perfect for new skiers and snowboarders. The ski areas are a quick journey for many of us and all of the resorts are located in the beautiful Highlands and are surrounded by areas of natural beauty. Scotland's Ski resorts are the perfect destination for people looking to combine multiple activities and see a bit of the Scottish countryside and towns. All of Scotland's ski resorts are situated relatively close together, so Aviemore is a great base if you fancy resort-hopping in search of the best snow. If you are a local hoping to catch a day's skiing, you are in luck as many resorts are just a few hours drive from the central belt. If you come from a little further afield, it is often recommended to stay for a few days, maximising your chance of catching a good ski day. 

  

Cairngorm Mountain

Best for the whole family, with great amenities.

 @visitcairngorms 

 

Nestled in the heart of the national park, the Cairngorm Mountain is a great all rounder resort. Offering beautiful views, lots of amenities and a wide variety of runs and activities to choose from, making it a top choice for mixed ability groups or skiers that like their home comforts. Cairngorm mountain offers an impressive thirty km of ski runs with thirteen lifts and a fully maintained freestyle park. Snowsports season usually runs from December to April and equipment hire is available. A long weekend in Aviemore allows for multiple days of skiing and a bit of spare time to explore the surrounding area, perhaps a visit to one of Speyside's famous distilleries. 

 

Getting there:
Cairngorm Mountain Resort is approximately two and a half hours drive from Edinburgh, two hours and forty five minutes from Glasgow and an hour by car from Inverness. It is also conveniently located just twenty minutes from Aviemore by car. Aviemore is accessible by train and there is a Stagecoach bus route that runs between Aviemore and the resort, running seven days a week. 

The Ski Area: 
Once you get to the car park, the Cairngorm Mountain Railway takes you on a scenic ride up to the slopes, this gets you into the heart of the action and you can ski from there. At the top of the railway, the highest restaurant in the UK, Ptarmigan offers panoramic views of the mountainside and Cairngorms. There is also the highest bar in the UK, Cairngorm Gin Bar and a viewing terrace. An immersive exhibition offers a virtual 270 degree view of the landscape, there is also a Learning Zone with interactive sandboxes and a shop offering a range of gifts and local products. 

Where to Stay:
For skiing in the Cairngorms, the bustling town of Aviemore provides a fantastic base especially if you plan to visit multiple resorts or if you are looking for an extended stay. The slopes at Lecht and Glenshee are nearby and It also has somewhat of the ski town vibe you may be used to in the European ski resorts.

Lift Passes and Ski Hire:

Everything you need can be found at the Base Station and nearby Day Lodge. Lift passes can be picked up from the ticket office and you can hire equipment on the day at our facility on level 3 of the Day Lodge. 

For information about ski passes and ski hire visit https://www.cairngormmountain.co.uk/tickets-passes-rentals/

 

Glencoe Mountain Resort

Best for late season skiers and black run lovers.

 

 @outdoorcapitaloftheuk

 

Often referred to as one of the most scenic ski resorts, the journey to Glencoe is almost as beautiful as the views from the slopes. Scotland's oldest ski centre is great for more experienced skiers and snowboarders and boasts the UK’s steepest black run, the Flypaper. The run is in-area but unpisted, perfect for adrenaline junkies that like the feel of backcountry skiing. Glencoe offers eight lifts and twenty runs and rental equipment is available for hire. This resort is definitely a little less polished, but that is part of the charm. Glencoe feels a world away from the streets of Edinburgh and offers an exhilarating version of skiing that feels earned. There are also areas of off piste skiing at Glencoe, perfect for experienced skiers looking for a challenge. The ski season at Glencoe also regularly extends into late April and May thanks to the Meall a’ Bhuiridh Massif, a large basin that holds plenty of snow.

Getting There:
Glencoe is an hour and thirty minutes from Glasgow, two and a half hours from Edinburgh, and two hours and thirty minutes from Inverness. It is situated on the A82, in between Fort William and Crianlarich. Alternatively it is possible to travel by train to Fort William and then catch the Glasgow CityLink bus that stops at the resort. 

The Ski Area:
An access chairlift will take you straight from the carpark and onto the slopes. The mountain is home to a free sledding area with sledges provided and an avalanche transponder training area. There is also a cafe at the base of the mountain that is open year round and a mid mountain Plateau Cafe that is open during the winter. If you don’t fancy a day trip, microlodges are available to book.

Where to Stay:
Glencoe has its own microlodges that offer accommodation for up to six people. If you fancy something slightly more luxurious, Glencoe House or the Isles of Glencoe Hotel and Leisure Centre are also close by.

Lift Passes and Ski Hire:

To ensure that weather conditions are optimum and suitable for use, tickets will only be available to purchase three of four days in advance (with the recommendation that you wait until the night before to book). Tickets can be made either online or at the ticket office whilst kids under five can ski for free!


For information about ski passes and ski hire visithttps://www.glencoemountain.co.uk/purchase-winter-lift-tickets/ 

 

Nevis Range Snowsports

best for off piste daredevils. 

 

 @visitscotland

 

The views from Nevis Range are spectacular, with views of neighbouring Ben Nevis, Britain's highest peak. There are also great views of Loch Eil and Loch Linnhe. The UK’s only mountain gondola takes you from the carpark and from there you can access all the runs and lifts.  

Getting there:
Nevis Range is located just seven minutes by car from Fort William, on the A82 to Inverness. Nevis Range is approximately two hours and forty minutes from Glasgow, three hours and ten minutes from Edinburgh and an hour and thirty minutes from Inverness. If you are travelling by public transport you can travel by train to Fort William then catch the N41 bus that regularly goes between Fort William and Nevis Range. 

The Ski Area:
Nevis Range has some lovely blue and green runs lower on the mountain and close to the main restaurant, perfect for families and beginners. Further up the mountain, the runs turn to red and black. However, the off-piste Back Corries are what makes Nevis Range really special, ideal for advanced skiers looking for a bit more adventure. The Back Corries are considered by many to be a hidden gem, offering the very best of powdery skiing after a fresh snow and long, swooping runs. Be prepared to work hard but know you will be rewarded for it and don’t forget your avalanche transceiver and kit. Nevis Range offers a few restaurants, The Pinemarten Cafe, located at the base of Aonach Mor and the Snowgoose Restaurant and Bar, located at the top of the Gondola Station. The resort also has an avalanche transceiver park and training area. The season usually runs from late December to April, another great choice for spring skiing. The town of Fort William nearby offers many great pubs, restaurants and hotels, with plenty to do and see around the town.

To Note: The back corries are unpisted, meaning they are at a higher risk for avalanches and accidents.

Where to Stay:
As The Nevis Range is located close to Fort William, there are plenty of hotels to choose from and the resort offers its own Nevis Range Base Camp Hotel. The resorts of Glencoe and Nevis Range are located only an hour apart, so a hotel at either location would provide a great base.

Lift Passes and Ski Hire:

You can book all your ski equipment via the Nevis Range Website or by contacting them on 01397 705825, with their ski hire shop being in operation on Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets for the gondola and snowsports can both be found online on the Nevis Range website alongside a full price list (including seasonal passes): https://www.nevisrange.co.uk/plan-your-visit/prices/ 

 

 

Lecht Ski Centre

Great for families and beginners.

 

 @lechtwebsite

 

Also located in the cairngorms, Lecht has lovely views of the snowy rolling hills that surround the resort. It is the smallest of Scotland's ski resorts but often boasts some of the best snow, this is due to its location and its snow making facilities.

Getting there: 
The Lecht is located along the A939 and is approximately three hours from Edinburgh and Glasgow and an hour and fifteen minutes from Inverness. The resort town of Aviemore is located around fifty minutes away, ideal as a base. There is no public transport to the centre. 

To note: the A939 can get snowed in easily.

The Ski Area:
The twenty ski runs and fourteen lifts are more than enough for a day or two's skiing. Lecht also offers snowsports school and tubing. It also has a restaurant, cafe bar, ski hire facilities and a shop located in the Day Lodge and a snowboard fun park. The Lecht offers many gentle runs for kids and beginners and its layout conveniently centres around the Day Lodge. Skiers can walk right onto the slopes from the carpark and take their pick of lifts up the mountain, again perfectly set up for families.

Where to Stay:
Like the Cairngorms, Aviemore provides a fantastic base for those who wish to spend a few days hitting the slopes with somewhere to unwind afterwards. Aviemore is abundant with holiday homes and B and Bs which can be located on Airbnb and various accomodation sites such as https://www.visitaviemore.com/accommodation/. If you're looking for a more catered trip, the Macdonald Aviemore Resort has remained one of Aviemore's most popular hotels over the years. With a pool, cinema, shopping centre, and variety of organised events (especially around Christmas time)- you won't be short of activities to get involved with.

Lift Passes and Ski Hire:

Lecht advises that you book your equipment before you book your chair ticket to ensure that the gear is available. This can no be done on their new online-booking platform. You will be able to collect the equipment from the lower ground floor of their main building, the Day Lodge. Remember to bring the barcode from your booking! It may be a good idea to print out or screenshot your barcode incase your phone struggles to find service post-arrival. Tickets can also be bought directly from their website.

For information about ski passes and ski hire visit https://www.lecht.co.uk/ 

 

Glenshee Ski Centre

Best for that alpine feeling and multiple day skiing

 

 @Glenbeag mountain lodges

 The largest resort in the UK, Glenshee covers an area in excess of two thousand acres and has twenty one lifts and tows. Adjacent to the carpark you will find the main base and multiple lifts that will take you on to the mountains. 

Getting there:
Glenshee is located along the A93 and is a lovely scenic drive. It is located approximately two hours and fifteen minutes from Inverness, two hours and twenty minutes from Edinburgh and two hours from Glasgow. Unfortunately there is no public transport servicing this ski centre yet. 

The Ski Area: 
There are thirty-six runs to choose from and forty km of pisted snow. There is a good mix of blue, green and red runs. The selection of long, weaving runs are what really makes you feel like you could be in the alps. There are also two black runs if you get bored of the beautiful, winding greens. Glenshee has three cafes dotted around the resort and offer a variety of food and drink options. There is also a gift shop, snowsports equipment rental and a snowsports school.

Where to Stay:
If you are planning to just visit Glenshee Ski Centre, there are a variety of lodges and hotels located on the southern side of the cairngorms such as Darroch Learg or the Hilton Grand Vacations Club. The town of Braemar located close by is also a great base.

Lift Passes and Ski Hire:

Bookings for Equipment must be made by 1pm before your day of visit. On your day of visit, head to the main ticket office with your booking QR code and they will give you a helping hand. You can find a full price list on their website, where you also will be able to purchase your tickets (also available for purchase at the ticket office). 


For information about ski passes and ski hire visit https://www.ski-glenshee.co.uk/Prices-and-Packages

 

Midlothian Sports Centre, Edinburgh

Best for beginners and city dwellers.

 

@outaboutscotland.com

 

Not sure if skiing is for you? Lacklustre snow conditions on the mountain? Hillend is a great alternative. The artificial ski slope is a good option for beginners who want lessons or skiers looking to brush up on their skills. The sports centre is open fifty weeks a year thanks to its artificial slopes, perfect for fair weather skiers.

Getting there: 
The sports centre is located just outside of Edinburgh, just off the A702. There are also buses from Edinburgh that serve Hillend. 

The Ski Area:
Cafe 360 offers views of the two main slopes. There are also three nursery slopes and even a jump slope. Lifts to the top of the ski slopes are accessible from the car park. Lessons for every level of skier and snowboarder are available and there is even a tubing area. 

Where to Stay:
With Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh located only 30 minutes away, you'll find an array of accommodation options within easy reach. Choose from centrally located hotels or Airbnbs for easy access to public transportation, ensuring a seamless journey to the slopes. For a touch of luxury, you could consider some of the boutique hotels in Edinburgh's city center, providing both comfort and style. Alternatively, cosy bed and breakfasts in neighborhoods like Stockbridge offer a more intimate experience whilst remaining relatively close to the city centre.

Lift Passes and Ski Hire:

The booking prices for a lesson or practice include your ski hire equipment- this does not need to be done separately. All ski hire will be allocated from the main building- just head to reception. To book your lesson or practice, follow their website to find your preferred activity where you will find the necessary application form. Once your booking request has been received, they will be in touch to arrange a form of payment.


For information about ski passes and ski hire visit https://www.midlothian.gov.uk/info/200281/snowsports_centre/183/prices

 

TO NOTE:

Off-piste skiing, whilst thrilling, does come with many risks. It is always recommended to complete training first, keep an eye on weather and avalanche conditions, and always bring your avalanche kit and transceiver. 

Occasionally the roads that service the resorts may become extremely snowy and icy, sometimes this necessitates a road and/or resort closure. Sometimes the roads and resorts remain open but the road conditions remain hazardous, in this case you may not be able to access the resort without four wheel drive, winter tyres or even tyre chains. One good resource that services the Cairngorms is www.snowgatecameras.co.ukhttps://www.snowgatecameras.co.uk/ there you can check if the snow gates are open before you travel. 


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