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That's snow business! Cairngorm winter plans revealed; Highland skiers and snow boarders to get discounts due to unavailable funicular

By Andrew Dixon

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CairnGorm Mountain ski area...Picture Credit : Tim Winterburn / HIE
CairnGorm Mountain ski area...Picture Credit : Tim Winterburn / HIE

All the stops are being pulled out to ensure snow sports enthusiasts have the best possible experience on Cairngorm this winter, according to its operator.

Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Limited (CMSL) unveiled its winter operation plans this morning.

With the funicular out of service, nine surface lifts will enable potentially hundreds of visitors a day to access the slopes when conditions are suitable. All surface lifts will be operational as and when snow cover and customer demand permits.

A children’s ‘high 5’ innovative snow park area for beginners will be in place and as the winter progresses some features for the more advanced skier/snow boarder will be added.

There will be between 43 and 61 people working on the mountain each day.

In busy periods, up to 10 designated hosts will be working alongside the core operations team, meeting and greeting visitors, providing help when queues build up, communicating information, and providing cover during breaks.

Tickets will be available from the base station at discounted prices due to the funicular being unavailable. The prices of day tickets are: adult (£28); junior (£17); senior (£21); student (£22); and family (£80).

Three ski schools – Free Ski; Ski Norwest and School of Snowsports – will be operating from Cairngorm Mountain.

Ski hire will operate from the third floor of the Day Lodge. For a trial period, skiers will be able to fit and collect their hired skis on Friday and Saturday evenings, weather permitting. This is to alleviate queues on busy days and enable skiers to access the slopes more quickly and without having to queue for fittings and ticket purchase.

Snow making equipment will be switched on at the end of October. This will create enough snow for the beginners’ slopes to be ready for the official season opening on December 7.

On the catering side, the Cas Bar will be set-up to provide hot food and enable customers to enter and exit quickly. The café will have a dedicated winter menu and be the main throughput area for visitors on busy days. When surface lifts are fully open, the Ptarmigan will also open, providing a scaled down offering of food and drink.

The retail area in the Day Lodge will be open throughout the season.

In preparing the plans, CMSL has been engaging with the snow sport clubs and season pass holders to address their needs and to maximise customers’ enjoyment of snow sports at Cairngorm Mountain.

Susan Smith, interim chief executive of CMSL, said: “We are absolutely determined that visitors to Cairngorm this winter will see and feel a marked improvement in all areas of the business. We are pulling out all the stops, with a heightened focus on customer service.

“Clearly, with the funicular still out of action, we will prioritise the remaining uplift, together with the snow factory and cannons, to make sure as many people as possible can access the slopes when conditions are right.

“Catering and queues are other key issues we have targeted in the new approach, with both the Cas Bar and the café open for food and drink. We very much look forward to welcoming our winter visitors and working hard to make sure their all-round experience is positive.

“We have reached out to the local primary schools via the ‘BSSA Snow Programme’ and look forward to welcoming Primary 6 and 7 school children to Cairngorm Mountain where a range of snow sports will be on offer. The local high schools will also continue to take part in snow sports at Cairngorm Mountain one day a week during the winter. This, we believe, goes a long way to integrating our business within the local community, encouraging the younger generation to take part in adventure activities and by doing so securing the future of snow sports within the community.”

CMSL is a subsidiary of resort owner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

James Gibbs, HIE’s area manager, said: “We have been working very closely with CMSL, supporting the development of their plans for the winter season. There has been a marked improvement already in terms of catering, facilities and customer service on the mountain, and that will continue throughout the winter season and beyond.

“We recognise and share the frustrations that many people have over the funicular problems and are working hard on solutions to this. We hope to be able to start repair work in spring 2020, subject to a business case being approved by the HIE Board and the Scottish Government.

“In the meantime, Cairngorm continues to offer an excellent prospect for visitors. There has been very positive feedback on the improvements already made. The winter seasons is of course crucial for the resort and CMSL are well-prepared to offer the best possible experience.”

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