A two-year spell running the Cairngorm Mountain ski resort on secondment has turned into a permanent job for new chief executive Susan Smith.
Ms Smith has been interim CEO since 2019, when she left her job as head of business development at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to lead resort operator Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) – CMSL – on a temporary basis.
She is an exceptional leader and the ideal person to take Cairngorm Mountain forward into a new and exciting chapter.”
Peter Mearns, chairman, Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland).
CMSL was set up by HIE following the collapse of the resort’s former private operator.
Ms Smith’s appointment to a permanent position follows an open recruitment process lasting several months.
Her success in securing the job was confirmed at a CMSL board meeting this week.
CMSL is a subsidiary of HIE, which acquired the assets of the previous operator at Cairngorm, near Aviemore, from administrators in December 2018.
It runs a broad range of activities across the 3,500-acre estate, including a ranger service and access to trails and footpaths, as well as a snowsports centre, shop and catering outlets.
The recent introduction of an adventure playpark has proven a popular addition at Cairngorm, and signalled an increased focus on building the resort’s appeal as a family attraction in all seasons of the year.
Currently, the resort is closed as staff prepare for the upcoming winter season when a combination of real and manufactured snow is expected to draw hundreds of skiers and snowboarders to Cairngorm every day.
The season is scheduled to get under way on Friday December 17, but the opening day may come earlier if conditions are suitable.
‘Rigorous” selection process
CMSL chairman Peter Mearns said: “Susan Smith emerged as the successful candidate after a rigorous selection process which saw applications from across the UK and internationally.
“She is an exceptional leader and the ideal person to take Cairngorm Mountain forward into a new and exciting chapter.”
Mr Mearns added: “Her energy and commitment to Cairngorm have already steered the company through some extremely challenging events, including the ongoing absence of the funicular railway as a key asset, and of course, the impacts of Covid.
‘Vision for the future’
“Just as importantly, she has a vision for the future that aims to establish Cairngorm Mountain once again as one of Scotland’s prime visitor attractions and an economic engine for the local community.”
Ms Smith said: “I am genuinely thrilled to have been appointed.
“We all believe totally in Cairngorm and in doing everything we can to realise its full potential in the years ahead as a centre for sports, the environment, education and the economy, and as a vital part of the culture of Strathspey and Badenoch.”
A £16 million funicular 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.
But the Covid-19 pandemic and blizzards have pushed back the reopening, which is now planned for the second half of next year.
A £780,000 makeover of the ski centre’s Ptarmigan restaurant is also under way.