Plans for £1million snow-making machines at crisis-hit CairnGorm have been lodged in a bid to boost the ski resort’s fortunes after the shock funicular closure.
It is hoped they will be in place by mid-December to attract thousands of snow sports fans after the 17-year-old mountain railway – which gives access to higher, longer runs – was taken out of action on safety grounds.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
Engineers discovered worrying problems with the structures that support its tracks. No timescale has yet been given for it coming back into operation.
Scottish Government-funded development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise, who own the resort, recently agreed to provide £1m funding for snow machines following the sudden railway closure.
CairnGorm Mountain Ltd (CML), operated by Natural Retreats under a lease agreement, has now submitted plans for them to be installed in an area next to the funicular.
Highland Council has set a deadline date for consultation at December 3 and a decision will then be made under delegated powers by planning officials if no objections are made.
Cairngorm National Park Authority has the power to “call-in” the application, but a spokeswoman said they had no opposition and will leave the final decision with Highland Council.
An HIE spokesman said: “We have been making every effort to ensure snowmaking is in place to keep Cairngorm open for skiing this winter.
“The planning application has been discussed with public sector partners ahead of being submitted, so we are hopeful it will be approved in good time to have the equipment operational by mid-December.”
CML, in its application, said: “The challenges faced by the business through lack of snow have heightened the need to alleviate the strong seasonal nature of the business.
“The business has been placed under significantly more pressure owing to uncertainty in the operation of the funicular railway during this winter due to structural investigations.
“In the winter of 2017/18 CML ran a trial of a single-unit Snowfactory for 60 days. These trials showed that the technology was able to produce snow in this location [next to the Day Lodge and funicular].”
He added: “The business wishes to install a larger Snowfactory unit operated throughout the entire winter to provide a more substantial benefit to the winter operations and help alleviate pressures caused by the uncertainty of the operation of the funicular railway.
“This planning application will help support the current winter operation by creating snow surety on the lower slopes helping to provide top to bottom skiing earlier in the season.
“Owing to the additional challenges being experienced with the funicular railway this technology will provide a vital offset to the business.”
CairnGorm Mountain has 30km of ski runs and approximately 33% market share of winter visitor numbers, making it the UK’s largest mountain ski resort.