Scotland’s ski resorts have suffered one of their “worst seasons” – with mild winter weather and the continuing troubles at CairnGorm Mountain combining to have a major impact on their fate.
An April cold snap has resulted in some snow cover in recent days, providing much-needed late cheer as the season comes to a close.
But despite snow machines now operating at three of the five centres, the resorts are still reporting a poor winter.
Bosses at Glenshee, in Aberdeenshire, admitted: “It is one of our worst seasons. It has been difficult.”
CairnGorm Mountain was hit with an early season shock with the closure in November of it funicular railway over safety fears.
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Last month operators Highlands and Islands Enterprise also revealed they were also experiencing technical issues with a new £1million snow factory.
The ski resorts have reported an overall decline in the number of runs opening.
While the latest snowfall saw the Lecht in Aberdeenshire, Glencoe Mountain and Nevis Range open some runs yesterday, Glenshee was closed due to a lack of snow.
Finanace manager Sarah McGuire said: “It could be the season over for us.
“In terms of runs open it is one of our worst seasons. We have only managed 24 days opening this season compared to around 100 in a good year and an average of about 80.”
A spokeswoman at Glencoe Mountain said: “It has been a difficult season. We are well down on a normal season. We are hoping these [current] conditions continue now to May Bank Holiday, when we traditionally close.”
The resort yesterday had, until recently, only managed three days of full opening – and only 20 partial openings – compared to around 100.
Nevis Range said it had “lots of fresh snow” which had improved conditions, but more was needed.
Andy Meldrum, chairman of Ski Scotland, described the season as “pretty dire.”
He said the artificial snow had worked to some extent, adding: “It has meant that beginner’s lessons and sledging has taken place but to have fuller skiing more snow cannons are needed.
“In Glencoe’s case we would need 16-20 cannons instead of the two we have. They cost £30,000 each, plus £1m in necessary infrastructure. This is Scottish skiing – it is very weather dependent.”
Aberdeenshire Council’s deputy leader and infrastructure chairman Peter Argyle, whose ward includes the Lecht and Glenshee ski centres, said: “It’s been one of the worst seasons we have had for a while.
“It seems every time the snow has come it has disappeared as soon as it has arrived. It’s been very frustrating, particularly for businesses that have spent so much money on snow-making equipment.”
Scottish snow sports boosted the economy by almost £31 million last season, according to estimates.
It is estimated that for every £1 spent on the Scottish slopes, a further £4 is spent in the surrounding areas.
VisitScotland figures estimate that snow sports support over 600 jobs.