Highlands and Islands Enterprise has established a new limited company “in anticipation” of taking over operations at Cairngorm ski centre.
The beleaguered resort was plunged deeper into crisis last week when current operator Cairngorm Mountain Limited (CML) was placed into administration by its parent company Natural Retreats.
It blamed cashflow problems following the closure of the funicular mountain railway at the beginning of October.
It has now emerged that a new firm – called Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd – has been registered with the Companies House, with two senior officials at HIE named as directors.
They are Nick Kenton, the agency’s director of finance and corporate services, and Douglas Cowan, HIE’s strengthening communities director who has responsibility for addressing challenges of the more remote and rural parts of our region.
An HIE spokesman said: “In anticipation of the operator of Cairngorm Mountain going into administration, we established a new subsidiary company called Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Limited.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with The P&J newsletter
“This was a contingency step in case such an entity would be needed in the future to help provide security for employees and ensure the resort remains open this season. The subsidiary is still inactive and operations at Cairngorm remain in the hands of the administrators.”
Badenoch and Strathspey councillor Bill Lobban described the move by HIE as “the logical way to go”.
He said: “I know HIE are working very hard to get a smooth transition. In the short term it is only sensible HIE take back operating the resort.
“In the long term we have to look at some community involvement in running the operation.
“We have to ensure the centre remains operational, not only for the 70 or so staff but the whole community, as closure would have a catastrophic effect on the area.”
Mike Dearman, director of Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust, said there was now a chance to “reboot” the snowsports centre, adding: If HIE is making preparations to take over CML then that is great news.
“It is our preferred option in the short term because we really don’t see any alternative at this point that would allow the mountain to be up and running this season.
“The trust would like to see HIE take ownership of the operating company as soon as possible and run it with community assistance, whilst working with us to establish a structure that would allow the community to take ownership of the operating company and the estate in the coming years.”
Meanwhile, Jamie Smith, boss of the Snow Factor indoor ski centre in Glasgow and Ice Factor Kinlochleven climbing facility in Lochaber, has offered his help to help get the centre out of administration.
Mr Smith told BBC Radio Scotland: “I am very keen to help in any way I reasonably can with CairnGorm.”