Fears are growing among community groups over CairnGorm Mountain Ltd’s plans to charge visitors using their ski resort car parks.
A trial scheme will start tomorrow at the ski centre and overspill car parks – which draw an average of 220,000 people each year – and this will be reviewed in the autumn.
Visitors from tomorrow will be charged £2 per car per day, with a £25 seasonal parking pass also available – and it will cost £8 a day for minibuses, caravans and campervans.
There are no parking charges at any of the other Scottish ski resorts except Nevis Range, which charges £3 a day per vehicle between May and October.
A spokeswoman for CairnGorm Mountain Ltd, operated by Natural Retreats, said they have been operating a donation car parking scheme for some time but only one in 20 vehicles have been contributing, resulting in a deficit for maintaining facilities.
The priority is to use the funding to resurface the car parks and improve parking bay markers and drainage, as well as “interpretative material and improved signage.” In the long term they hope to have a 24-hour toilet facility, improved caravan facilities, electric hook-ups and additional ski racks installed around the day lodge buildings.
Janette Jansson, general manager at CairnGorm Mountain, said: “The introduction of the parking charge will certainly help towards the ongoing maintenance of the car parks, as well as improving the other services and activities we provide here at CairnGorm Mountain, ensuring the best possible visitor experience for our customers.”
Staff, ski season pass holders, funicular pass holders, those on coaches and disabled people will all be exempt from the new payments.
But Alan Brattey, secretary of the Aviemore Business Association, said charging on top of ski passes during the season would be “counterproductive.” He highlighted that CairnGorm’s share of the Scottish snowsports market fell to 23.6% last season, down from a 40.6% average throughout the 10-year period to 2013.
He claims more than £1 million of additional revenue would have been generated last season if the previous position had been maintained.
Mr Brattey added: “To now ask customers to fork out additional sums to cover the loss or revenue adds insult to injury and will inevitably lead to a further drift away from CairnGorm, more particularly because no improvement to the uplift infrastructure have been made.”
Alastair Dargie, vice chairman of Aviemore and Vicinity Community Council, said they were “disappointed” about not being consulted at all on the parking charge trial.
He said the move also raises questions about how much the area has fallen into a “level of disrepair” in recent times, adding: “We continue to be frustrated as there is not an overall master plan of how the resort is going to develop in the long term.”