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Ski resort boss says conditions are great – but he can’t open

As ski resorts in Scotland remain closed due to Covid many skiers are taking to backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering to make the most of the current great conditions.
As ski resorts in Scotland remain closed due to Covid many skiers are taking to backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering to make the most of the current great conditions.

The boss of Scotland’s oldest ski resort said the country’s snow sports centres are closed in what are the “best conditions in years”.

Andy Meldrum said his Glencoe Mountain Resort has “Alpine conditions” and that it is “devastating” that the Scottish Government has ordered the closure of winter sports centres.

He said ironically the mountains were “full” of ski tourers with Glenshee and Cairngorm seeing “upwards of 300-a-day”.

“Those numbers are at a commercially viable level but we can’t open. It’s devastating,” said Mr Meldrum, who is also chair of Ski Scotland.

“We have Alpine conditions – lovely packed snow with skiing down to the car park. It was the best January I can remember in my 12 years here – not only did we have good snow, but calm conditions. Normally in January you can lose 50 percent of your days to strong winds. Not last month. It was fantastic conditions.

“All we want to do is open for locals – for people’s mental and physical wellbeing and the staff. I think we have shown we can operate safely. But while we are closed the mountains are full of ski tourers. It is the best conditions in years.

“The government’s main issue seems to be people breaking travel restrictions, but we would only re-open to locals and we can manage that.”

‘We feel we can operate safely now’

Mr Meldrum said the season may come down to a final few weeks.

“We normally run through to the end of April/ beginning of May and everything (with reducing the spread of the virus) is moving in the right direction. We feel we can operate safely now,” he said.

“We jumped through every hoop we could – limiting numbers to 200 when normally we would have had 1000, plus all kinds of other measures with people never closer than 15 metres and checking addresses.

“We spent time every day going through the bookings and we cancelled those who came from outside the allowed areas.”

Cairngorm Mountain has the best snow locals can remember in years.

“The railway line has been covered by snow drifts in places, I don’t think this has happened since 2010,” said one local.

In her last statement before the festive period, Susan Smith, Interim Chief Executive, Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd said:”We want to make it very clear – we are closing for no other reason than the safety of our staff, customers and the local community.

“It has been evident in the past few weeks that, regardless of the travel restrictions, people are insistent on breaking the law and coming into the Highlands from tier 3 and 4 areas and other parts of the UK.

“We look forward to welcoming you back to Cairngorm when the Scottish Government relax the current restrictions. Keep safe.”

‘Snowsports centres are critical to Scotland’s rural economy’

Snowsports centres have been gifted much-needed financial aid from the Scottish Government.

The multi-million-pound funding package is to be shared across wintersports facilities to support them through the pandemic.

Originally mooted back in December, talks of the package included £2 million being made available for facilities in need.

An additional £1m has since been added and will be distributed to those forced to close due to the latest round of Level 4 restrictions.

Fergus Ewing

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Snowsports centres are critical to Scotland’s rural economy, worth an estimated £30m and providing over 600 jobs in some of our most remote areas.

“I’m pleased to announce an additional £1m has now been added to make up the £3m fund.”

Before the shutdown of Scotland’s five winter sports resorts, Snowsport Scotland chief executive Trafford Wilson said the frustration lay with people taking matters into their own hands. He said the ski resorts were doing everything they could but that some people would simply arrive at ski centres with sledges and walk onto the hills.

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