One of the north-east’s premier ski centres has received a £300,000 funding boost to ensure it can capitalise amid predictions of a bumper winter.
Continued uncertainty surrounding international travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic means slopes across Scotland are expecting heightened interest with enthusiasts expected to stay at home this year.
Now the Lecht, which is based in the Cairngorms near Tomintoul, has received a cash boost from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to ensure it can guarantee more snow whatever the weather.
The funding will be used by the ski centre to buy advanced snow-making equipment, including cannons and a piste machine, to enhance downhill conditions – even in mild winters.
It is hoped the £400,000 project will be completed before Christmas.
Similar technology, which was also supported by HIE, is already used on the nursery slopes to guarantee conditions for people to build confidence on while weather has been poor in recent years.
Technological improvements mean the latest equipment can still produce snow in temperatures up to -1C, three degrees higher than the existing cannons.
Success in continuing to attract skiers during mild weather has built confidence in management that it can expanded to other parts of the centre.
The latest investment will be used to ensure more routes will definitely be open when the centre, which was established in the 1970s, opens for the latest season on December 18.
Angie Smith, senior business development manager for HIE, said: “The Lecht is a key part of Moray’s winter tourism offering.
“This project will enable the business to tap into the winter staycation market and support valuable employment in a rural area where they have greater proportional impact.
“It will also bring benefits to the local economy through more and longer visits and increased visitor spend.”
Current travel restrictions mean skiers travelling to popular resorts in France, Switzerland, Italy and Austria will need to self-isolate after returning amid government advice against “all but essential” trips.
It is hoped that the new technology at the Lecht will continue to provide added benefits beyond the winter into next year’s Easter holidays – supporting at least 15 seasonal jobs at the centre.
Meanwhile, the ski centre has launched an appeal to skiers to help fill the remaining funding gap to cover the cost of buying the equipment.
Managing director Pieter du Pon said: “There have always been variations in snow fall in Scotland. At the Lecht, we want to be able to offer consistent, reliable snow conditions.”
“We still have a lot of work to do, aiming to crowd-fund the balance of the project.
“Today we are launching a massive crowd-funding push to raise the £80,000 required and are offering rewards for individuals and businesses who support us in this way.”
More details about the crowdfunding appeal is available on the Lecht’s website.