Castles, whisky and Nessie; Outlander, kilts and bagpipes – Scotland is one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations for a variety of reasons. But skiing? You might be surprised to learn that the Scottish Highlands are home to no fewer than five ski areas, each unique in character.
Due to COVID-19, safety measures were put in place by Scotland which impacted the 20/21 ski season. These included physical distancing, mandatory mask-wearing in most indoor places and limited capacity for indoor and outdoor dining. Glencoe Ski Resort, located in Argyll county, only permitted visitors from the Highland or Argyll & Bute local authority areas. Additionally, advance purchases were required for all lift tickets in order to monitor capacity on the mountain. Such restrictions are not anticipated to continue into the 21/22 winter season.
Glencoe also known as White Corries is the oldest ski area in Britain. The upper third of the mountain is basically a freeride playground with natural half-pipes and jump features. The steepest runs are never groomed and include Scotland’s gnarliest black: the Flypaper. Gentle beginner slopes cover the plateau below, with long runs returning to the base when there’s enough low-level snow. It’s not a big ski area, but packs in a lot of variety, and lots of people mention the relaxed vibe. Scottish ski resorts don't get better than this.
Glenshee is Scotland’s biggest ski area – though don’t come expecting another Park City or Vail. Runs spread across three valleys with the most interesting skiing at either end. Stand at the top of Glas Maol and it feels like you’re on the edge of a vast wilderness. In the middle, there’s a decent amount of easier ski terrain, though not much for absolute beginners. Since Glenshee is in the southern part of the Cairngorms National Park, the opportunities for walks are endless. It's a fantastic way to explore Scotland's stunning nature and a great add-on to your ski trip.
Nevis Range only opened in 1989, at the top of Scotland’s only mountain gondola. From the top, there are sensational Scottish views of Ben Nevis and Loch Eil. For experts, the back of the mountain is where it gets really interesting: the yellow itineraries marked on the trail map are epic, ungroomed runs. And just a short drive away from the ski resort is the base town of Fort William where there are plenty of things to do. Skiing the newest ski resort in Scotland should definitely be on your list if you're headed out this way!
Cairngorm Mountain has been welcoming skiers and snowboarders to its snowy Scottish slopes since the 1960s. The mountain splits into two parts with exposed but snowsure beginner bowls at the top. The right side serves mostly intermediate terrain whereas over to the left, you’ll find the steeper Ciste sector for advanced skiers. Cairngorm Mountain is also not far from Speyside where you can sample a dram of whisky, and just 10 minutes away from Britain’s only free-ranging reindeer herd. With so many nearby non-skiing activities nearby, it's no wonder why Cairngorm is a popular Scottish ski resort.
Lecht may be one of the smallest Scottish ski areas but it is a quite popular choice for families, especially because of its low lift ticket prices. Additionally, this family-orientated resort has focused its attention on developing the country’s best beginner facilities, with a row of sheltered magic carpets and drag lifts right next to the restaurant and Day Lodge. Although the short runs can lack variety, most of the longer runs are great for intermediate skiers and riders. If you want to avoid crowds, Lecht is definitely a better pick over Cairngorm Mountain.