A £780,000 makeover of Cairngorm Mountain ski centre’s highest building has started, weeks after its owner announced a major delay in repairs to the funicular railway that will carry visitors to it.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) said the project would meet the needs of an anticipated increase in visitor numbers following the railway’s re-opening, which is now planned for the second half of next year.
It will include “significant improvements” to the Ptarmigan building’s restaurant and bar and upgrading of its exhibition area and viewing terrace.
The development agency added that 12 full-time-equivalent (FTE) jobs are expected to be created there over the next three years.
Along with the reopening of the funicular, this will help reposition Cairngorm as one of Strathspey’s major visitor attractions and an important part of the area’s broader tourism offering.”
Susan Smith, Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland)
The Ptarmigan has been closed for three years, since the funicular was taken out of service on safety grounds when faults were found in the concrete beams that support the railway.
A £16million repair project started in the spring, with the aim of getting the mountain train running again in time for this year’s winter sports season.
The repairs are part of a £20m drive, backed by money from the Scottish Government to turn the winter sports centre, near Aviemore, into a year-round visitor attraction.
Beauly-based Simpson Builders has been appointed to carry out the first phase of the Ptarmigan upgrade, after HIE’s board agreed funding of up to £780,000.
Project an ‘essential’ part of wider resort ipmrovements
Susan Smith, interim chief executive of Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) (CMSL), the company set up by HIE following the collapse of the resort’s former private operator, said the project had “been on the cards for a long time” and was an “essential” part of the wider improvements.
Ms Smith continued: “Along with the reopening of the funicular, this will help reposition Cairngorm as one of Strathspey’s major visitor attractions and an important part of the area’s broader tourism offering.
“It will encourage more people to come here and to stay longer; something that will also benefit other businesses in the region.
“We are very pleased to be moving forward with the project and look forward to working with Simpsons over the next few months.”
Sitting close to the summit of Cairn Gorm, at almost 3,600ft, the Ptarmigan’s restaurant is highest in the UK.
The refurbishment will include a redesign of its dining, servery and bar areas and the installation of new fixtures and fittings.
In the exhibition area, 3-D technology will be installed, offering an “interactive and interpretive experience.”
It will include 270-degree panoramas, giving “views” of the landscape, even when it is obscured by poor weather conditions.
The space will be adaptable to accommodate different types of functions, including educational group visits, live sporting events and scheduled exhibitions.
The building’s viewing terrace will also made accessible to visitors on their arrival aboard the funicular.
HIE said CMSL aimed to source materials and artwork locally “wherever possible,” as well as food and drink supplies, once the building has re-opened.
Using funding previously agreed by the agency for energy efficiency measures across the site, an air handling unit with heat recovery will be installed at the Ptarmigan, along with flow regulators on all taps.
The refurbishment started this week and is due to be completed “around the end of the year.”
Makeover will bring a ‘range of benefits’ locally
Dave Macleod, head of property and infrastructure at HIE, said: “It will bring a range of benefits for visitors, for the business on the mountain and its employees and possibly even for other local businesses and community groups who want to make use of the new facility.
“Added to this, of course, is the low carbon aspect, which is important as we move towards a net-zero economy.
“We are very pleased to see the project get under way and look forward to it taking shape in the months ahead.”
Despite the delays to the funicular work, Cairngorm Mountain will stay open throughout this winter, with snowboarders and skiers able to access the slopes by nine ski tows that will operate when the weather allows.
Earlier this year it emerged that Inverness-headquartered HIE had launched a £14.5m legal action against the builder and designer of the funicular railway.