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Masterplan for Cairngorm Mountain in Highlands is unveiled


By Gavin Musgrove

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Masterplan outlines the way ahead for Cairngorm Mountain which has been hit hard by the closure of the funicular, the coronavirus outbreak and a succession of recent poor winters.
Masterplan outlines the way ahead for Cairngorm Mountain which has been hit hard by the closure of the funicular, the coronavirus outbreak and a succession of recent poor winters.

A new mountain centre and efficient and reliable uplift to serve a whole range of winter and summer activities are amongst the main proposals for the way forward for Cairngorm Mountain over the next 25 years.

The removal of the closed system should also be explored and a focus put on making the resort a mountain biking destination.

The recommendations are included in the long awaited 61 page masterplan 'Cairngorm Mountain: Towards a vision and masterplan' just published this afternoon.

The report outlines plans to turn the resort into a year-round destination and a valuable contributor to the local economy.

Consultants commissioned by resort owners Highlands and Islands Enterprise propose that a Scottish Centre for the Mountain Environment should be created to replace the Day Lodge.

They also stress that the resort should remain as a centre of snowsports – for as long as snow exists at Cairngorm Mountain.

Uplift should be at the core of the re-development and should serve multiple activities throughout the year including skiing and snowboarding, mountain biking and visitor access.

Another of the main recommendations is that emphasis is put on turning the resort into a mountain biking destination including linking with the Glenmore Forest below.

Cairngorm Mountain should follow the focus put on mountain biking at other ski resorts close to home and overseas.
Cairngorm Mountain should follow the focus put on mountain biking at other ski resorts close to home and overseas.

Other key strategies include:

• respecting sensitive landscapes – the protection and enhancement of the landscape will be respected when assessing new activities

• Avoiding direct competition by focussing on activities that will complement – and not deliver direct competition to – existing operators in Badenoch and Strathspey.

With these key points, the report describes looking at the 'evolution' of the Section 50 Agreement and the Visitor Management Plan – better known as the closed system–which prevents people from exiting the Ptarmigan top station out with the ski season.

Once the key strategies are agreed later this year, a zoned masterplan that supports their delivery will be created.

The report has been compiled by Jura Consultants and Threesixty Architecture after extensive public consultations earlier this year.

Paul Jardine, managing director of Jura Consultants, and one on the main authors at the consultation in Grantown earlier this year.
Paul Jardine, managing director of Jura Consultants, and one on the main authors at the consultation in Grantown earlier this year.

It states: "The current operating model’s main focus is on winter sports.

"The strategy is to create a year-round offering that broadens the experience to a wider audience by providing activities that offer a diverse range of sports, leisure and educational pursuits that enhance the existing recreational activities of the larger Aviemore and Glenmore area.

"The ambition is to significantly improve the Cairngorm winter and summer experiences and expand revenue-generating opportunities for the business and the wider area."

The authors state creating a Scottish Centre for the Mountain Environment will place a new focus on education and research covering the environment, climate change and sports.

The report recommends that uplift is focussed on the three existing stations – the Base Station and Day Lodge, Shieling and Ptarmigan.

There appears to be no mention of developing Coire na Ciste which campaigners have said is a must to improve the wintersports offering at the resort as well as providing many other opportunities including hydro power.

On the closed system, the report states: "During the consultation process, all the partners have confirmed they are open to re-evaluating this agreement.

"Together, they will review the visitor management arrangements at the Ptarmigan to investigate opportunities for improving the visitor experience whilst, critically, maintaining protection for the adjacent European sites."

HIE and the consultants are now seeking feedback on the new long-term masterplan for the Cairngorm Estate. An online survey will go live on HIE's website from next Wednesday (July 29), and will remain open until August 31.

The vision and strategy document has been drawn following public consultations that took place online and through-out the strath in February and March, earlier this year.

The final masterplan will be published later this year after this second public consultation is taken on-board.

The draft report 'Cairngorm Mountain: Towards a vision and masterplan' can be viewed here

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