An annual dance music festival at Cairngorm has become the latest victim of the problems affecting the snow sports centre’s funicular railway.
Organisers said yesterday they had decided not to run Groove CairnGorm, due to take place in February, citing uncertainty over the mountain railway’s operation as a major reason.
It is the latest blow to the local economy since owners Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) announced the funicular had been taken out of service while concerns over track support structures are investigated.
At the weekend it emerged centre operators CairnGorm Mountain (CML) had, without HIE’s knowledge, decided not to open its ski school this season, leaving dozens of instructors out of winter work. CML has also told catering workers they will not be needed while the train is out of action.
Groove CairnGorm, which has taken place at the ski centre and Badaguish Outdoor Centre for the past two years, announced it would be taking a “year off” in 2019, but hoped to return the following year.
Organiser Dougie Brown said: “There are a number of reasons why we have decided to have a year off, but the uncertainty over the funicular has played a large part.”
The growing crisis at Cairngorm will be discussed by HIE board members for the first time today at a meeting in Inverness.
HIE, which owns Cairngorm Estate including the ski area and its facilities, first flagged problems with the mountain railway on October 1, announcing it would be closed for “several weeks”. The investigation results are expected in early December.
Social media reaction
Although HIE said it was working with CML to “deliver the best possible skier experience without the funicular”, chief executive Charlotte Wright has slammed the company over its decision not to run the ski school in the 2018-19 season.
Ms Wright said: “HIE was not consulted on this announcement, and we do not support the course of action that CML has chosen.
“At a time of considerable uncertainty, this will undoubtedly have caused further distress to local businesses and the wider community.
“We have made our position clear to CML and are discussing the issue with the company as a matter of the utmost urgency.”
Last night Ewan Kearney, chief operating officer at CML’s parent company, Natural Retreats, said the decision was “not taken lightly” and extended the firm’s thanks to ski school staff for their “hard work and commitment”.
He added: “Given the uncertainty surrounding the funicular and the likely knock-on effects to CairnGorm Mountain’s carrying capacity, coupled with limited snow cover for lessons, we have made the decision not to operate our own Snow School this winter and focus on supporting the local ski schools in Aviemore.”
Two north politicians have written to Fergus Ewing urging him to intervene in the Cairngorm crisis.
MP Drew Hendry and MSP Kate Forbes have written joint letters to the chief executive of Natural Retreats Ltd and to the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing.
The move comes after a shock announcement that the ski training school, vital to attracting visitors to the facility, was suddenly cancelled just as the season is about to start.
Commenting, Drew Hendry said: “The news that the ski school has now been suspended is another bitter blow for the Aviemore community, who have already had to deal with the closure of the funicular.
“I believe we have all been extremely patient with Natural Retreats, yet promised improvements have not materialised. Communication is almost non-existent with the local community and when it does happen, it comes too late.
“While people were prepared to accept safety comes first with the funicular, it is little wonder that those who have bought season tickets in good faith are frustrated that this news hadn’t come earlier.
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“The mountain is a vital economic asset to local businesses and the community and this situation cannot be allowed to continue. We are urging the Cabinet Secretary to intervene.”
Kate Forbes said, “I believe that HIE should take swift and decisive action in relation to Cairngorm Mountain because enough is enough. After several years, with little to no progress on developments, and now the funicular out of service, the ski school suspended for the season and the cancellation of Groove Cairngorm I believe that the local community have put up with more than enough.”