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Ski-ing returns – but for how long?

Susan Smith, interim chief executive of Cairngorm Mountain.
Susan Smith, interim chief executive of Cairngorm Mountain.

Skiers have just begun to get their first taste of the white stuff at Scotland’s top ski resort – but a decision on how long it will last once the tighter Covid restrictions are imposed is still up in the air.

Cairngorm Mountain welcomed its first snowsports enthusiasts at the weekend, but strict guidance on entrance resulted in only 50 making it to the hills.

Resort bosses have issued a stern warning for Covid rule-breakers to stay away when the centre reopened at the weekend.

Interim chief executive Susan Smith appealed for snow sport enthusiasts, hillwalkers and climbers from parts of Scotland in Level 3 and Level 4 – such as Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire – to follow government guidance and remain in their local area.

She said: “The weekend went well at Cairngorm, with around 50 skiers and snowboarders enjoying the beginner slope on Saturday and Sunday.

“It was a good number of people given the circumstances, manageable but not overwhelming.

“The board of Cairngorm Mountain Scotland Limited is currently considering the first minister’s statement and will make a decision this week about how it will affect operations at Cairngorm.”

At Glencoe there was only enough snow for sledgers to have fun, but even then they enjoyed around 180 people on both Saturday and Sunday.

The Lecht, Nevis Range and Glenshee all remained closed.

A spokeswoman for the Glenshee centre said it would “review the situation”, while at Nevis Range a spokesman said: “We will update you as soon as possible.”

At Cairngorm Resort, snow-making machines are being used to boost cover on the hills.

However, the funicular remains closed while multi-million pound repair work is carried out on its structure.

A spokesman for Highlands and Island Enterprise, who operate Cairngorm Mountain, said: “Balfour Beatty have now completed the programme scheduled for this year, which involved excavating areas around five of the pier bases and carrying out initial strengthening works.

“The contractor is currently demobilising for winter and works will resume in the spring.”

Meanwhile, Susan Smith said a decision on whether to continue to operate during the most recent lockdown announcement will be made later this week.

She added: “If you are planning to travel to Cairngorm Mountain, you need to understand the travel restrictions in place in Scotland and in local authority areas.

“Under current Scottish Government travel conditions, unless you have a specific justification for travel you must not travel between Scotland and England, Northern Ireland, Wales, County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland and Jersey.

“If you live in a level 3 or 4 local authority area you must, by Scottish Law, remain in that area unless you have a specific justification.

“This applies to people who live in Scotland and those who live outwith Scotland, who may be thinking about travelling for a skiing/snowboarding vacation.”

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