The Scottish Government is being urged to re-open snow sports centres “at the earliest opportunity” to allow local skiers and snowboarders to escape lockdown and take outdoor exercise.
Ahead of the first minister’s Covid update on Tuesday, a call has been made to add ski resorts to facilities that are allowed to operate.
One operator said that winter sport enthusiasts are enduring “mental torture” being unable to take to the slopes while conditions are among the best for many years.
Andy Meldrum, managing director of Glencoe Mountain Resort, said golf courses, driving ranges and tennis courts remain open, providing physical and mental health benefits.
With Covid rates falling and the vaccination programme making progress, he is hopeful snow sports centres can be added.
Mr Meldrum added: “We feel that the Scottish Government must reconsider its position on the limited type of outdoor exercise facilities they have permitted to be open during lockdown.
“At the earliest opportunity, we would like to see the government extending the list to include the use of dry ski slopes, and snow sports centres like Glencoe Mountain Resort.”
He said the centre operated from December 5 to January 5, only accepting bookings from customers with a local postcode, to provide safe exercise and is confident it can do again if allowed.
He said: “While we understand how difficult the decisions are that the government is having to make, we’d like to reassure them that we are extremely confident that we can provide a safe environment for local skiers and snowboarders.
“Re-opening for skiing is about much more than ensuring the survival of the ski centre, it is about providing the opportunity for local people to let off steam, reduce stress and get much needed outdoor exercise in these challenging times.
“This seemingly never-ending lockdown, with no sign of being given access to their favourite exercise, is having a really bad effect on the mental health of some of our customers.”
Mr Meldrum said snow depths mean skiing could continue possibly into May.
He added: “Viewing the current web cam images is like some sort of mental torture for many of our customers.”
Pieter du Pon, managing director at The Lecht Ski Centre, said: “We are waiting to see what the first minister says on Tuesday before we can move on.
“We would like to be open. We are installing hands-free and online ticketing systems so that should we be able to re-open, people don’t have to come to the building at all to go skiing and we make things as safe as possible.
“It would be nice if we could open because we’ve had wonderful snow conditions and the parents of small children will be aching to get us open.”
Susan Smith, interim chief executive at Cairngorm Mountain, said it is awaiting an update from the first minister on when and how restrictions will be lifted.
She said: “It is really important that the safety of our staff, customers and the local community is factored into any decisions to reopen. We welcome further guidance in due course.”
No one was available at Nevis Range and Glenshee centres.
The Scottish Government has provided £3 million to snow sports centres. A spokesman said it recognises how beneficial sport and physical activity are to health and that restrictions on snow sports are disappointing.
But he added: “However, we are still in the middle of a pandemic and must do all we can to prevent transmission of the virus.
“It is important that people ‘stay local’, travelling no further than is needed to reach a safe, uncrowded place to take exercise in a physically distanced way.
“We understand how difficult conditions are for businesses, especially in the tourism and hospitality sectors, and have put in place a package of support to help them through these challenging times. We are committed to doing everything possible to get them back on their feet.”