Scotland’s winter sports season kicked off this week – even without natural snow.
Two of the country’s snow sports centres – Glencoe and The Lecht – are the first in Scotland to offer a guaranteed opening and closing date for the season thanks to the introduction of snow-making equipment.
And crisis-hit Cairngorm – where the funicular has been closed for two months and the operators have been placed in to administration – is also about to see its snow machines come on line this week.
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The Lecht in Aberdeenshire opened its Magic Carpet run on Saturday while Glencoe had a supporters’ event on the slopes and also had sledging.
It was offering tow assisted skiing and boarding for enthusiasts yesterday.
Dale Knights and Adam Burrows travelled 600 miles from Suffolk to go skiing at Cairngorm – but with no skiing there, they went to The Lecht for the weekend.
Adam said:”Its a great effort by the team here to get the slopes open and although its just the one run we are having a great time.
“It’s amazing that the snow factory can churn out snow on any given day. Hopefully there will be a lot of snow this winter and we can come back up when the slopes are covered and all the runs are open.”
Scott McCartney, 30, a snowboard instructor, added: “This will be my first season at The Lecht and it has got off to a great start.”
Andy Meldrum, chair of Ski Scotland, who also runs Glencoe, said the machines would transform the Scottish winter sports season.
He added: “This is the first time ever that Scotland has been able to offer a definite season start date.
“There has also been some natural snow to pretty up the surrounding mountainsides.”
HIE awarded Glencoe Mountain £140,000 towards the £350,000 costs of acquiring the snow making equipment from Italian firm, TechnoAlpin.
HIE supported trials of the technology at three Scottish ski centres last season with positive results.
Having it in place permanently at Glencoe will guarantee a start date to the skiing season and will help maintain snow cover during periods when there is a lack of natural snow.
Mr Meldrum said: “The value of this cannot be underestimated not only for our customers and the local economy as it will give visitors more confidence in planning trips and will provide huge benefits for our business and the local economy.”
HIE awarded the Lecht Ski Company more than £200,000 towards the £520,000 costs of acquiring a machine.
Snow-making equipment worth £1million is being installed at Cairngorm ski resort and it is hoped they will be up and running later this week.
The mountain railway was taken out of action in October because of fears over the structures that support its tracks. Engineers are investigating and the funicular will be closed in the meantime.