As snow sparkles temptingly on Cairngorm Mountain, people planning to visit to walk off their Christmas excesses are being advised to think hard before they leave.
And if they’re from outside the Highlands, the plea is not to break the current Covid restrictions to travel into the area.
The snow gates at Glenmore, the entrance to the mountain, were closed on Christmas Eve, along with the toilets, tows and ski lifts, and will remain so for the rest of this lockdown period.
Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd (CMSL), owners of the mountain, said they were disappointed to be in this position, but firmly believe it is the right course of action in light of the latest Covid restrictions.
CMSL is responsible for clearing the road from the snow gates at the top of the Hayfield to Coire Cas car park.
Bosses say they will retain a small team on site for care and maintenance in the meantime, but not enough manpower to deal with emergencies, cars getting stuck or bad weather.
The closure of the snow gates means car parking will be in short supply, with a risk of congestion on the sides of the roads.
It also affects two Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) car parks beyond the snow gates, the Sugarbowl and Allt Mor car parks, although all other FLS car parks and trails in Glenmore will remain open.
An FLS spokesman said: “With the current restrictions in place for Covid, we would encourage everybody to follow the guidance, keep everybody safe.
“If they turn up to go walking, they will find nowhere to park once they get there, which could end up causing congestion on the roadside and problems for people turning round to try and get back out.
“Be very careful about making the decision to go in the first place, about having to stay safe, plan ahead, check our website and others before you go to see what’s going on.”
Cairngorm National Park Authority (CNPA) board member and Highland councillor Pippa Hadley said the closure of the mountain was a sad blow to the local economy, but necessary in the light of the current serious threat.
She said: “Although it’s difficult when we’re seeing the hills fill up with snow, we are closed and please stay away and stay safe.”
Fellow CNPA board member and councillor, Carolyn Caddick, said that although the closure is for operational reasons, she has a lot of sympathy for those seeking the best snow in the hill tops.
“But we all need to stay safe so people must take personal responsibility and be accountable when they could put emergency services at risk.”
Willie Anderson of Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team is hoping to see out the festive season quietly.
He said: “I don’t think it will be busy. This summer was our quietest ever. Folk have been good at sticking to the restrictions, despite being desperate to get out.”
Meanwhile, the Lecht ski centre in Aberdeenshire will be open for snow sports starting today, but only for Moray and Aberdeenshire enthusiasts.
The centre says this will be in full compliance with the current Covid restrictions as updated by Sports Scotland, which state that outdoor non -contact sports, which includes snow sports, are possible for all ages in Level 4.
Ski hire will need to be pre-booked on line and the café will be on a take-away basis only.