The collapse of the operators of crisis-hit Cairngorm ski centre has strengthened calls for the resort to be placed into community ownership – and possibly within two years.
Cairngorm Mountain Limited (CML), a subsidiary of leisure firm Natural Retreats, had leased the resort from owners Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) since 2014 – but plunged into administration on Thursday after cashflow problems following the closure of the funicular railway two months ago.
Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust (AGCT),which was set up to prepare a buyout of CairnGorm Mountain, claimed the situation now offered a chance to “reboot” the snowsports centre.
Director Mike Dearman said: “We believe this is a huge opportunity for change at Cairngorm, the centre has gone bust twice now in 10 years and we must not let that happen again.
“Clearly it’s time for a new direction. AGCT would like to see HIE take ownership of the operating company as soon as possible so we can move on and get the resort up and running for the winter season.
“We would like to assist in the short term whilst working with HIE and other stakeholders to transfer ownership to the community within the next two years.
“There is huge passion for that hill that a lot of people in winter are reliant on. We are excited that we may once again have control over it.”
A spokesperson for Badenoch and Strathspey Conservation Group added: “The economic viability of the funicular has been authoritatively questioned since long before it was built.
“To date tens of millions of pounds of public money have been spent on it and as HIE have financial responsibility for the funicular it continues as a significant liability for the taxpayer.
“It would seem that now is the time for a fundamental review of winter sports on Cairn Gorm.”
Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant said: “It’s now important that HIE is allowed to step in to give stability and to ensure that the remaining staff are paid at this difficult time of year with Christmas just around the corner.
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“AGCT and the Save the Ciste campaign have both been pushing for community ownership of Cairngorm to allow for new developments and expansion.
“The company’s collapse should open the door for a very serious discussion about how local people can take this forward.”
Kate Forbes, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “CairnGorm Mountain is a critically important asset for the Highland economy and we want to see snowsports there this winter and many more winters to come.”
HIE said it was currently “in direct contact” with the administrators and were “confident that Cairngorm will remain open for business”.