Aviemore ski resort
Aviemore, and the accompanying Cairngorm Mountain ski area, is one of Scotland’s most popular year-round tourist destinations, and boasts a long serving reputation as a top-class ski destination.
During the resort’s peak in popularity during the 1960s a generation of British skiers took their first unsteady run down these slopes. However, with more attractive options popping up in the Alps, Aviemore’s soaring popularity began to slide, re-establishing itself to modern skiers only in recent years.
The area still faces many challenges, a relatively modern funicular is the only non-drag lift option left on the mountain and some sectors have been abandoned rather than renewed, but on a good day, with good conditions, the slopes of Cairngorm can be as good as anywhere in the world.
Along with dozens of things to do in and around Aviemore itself, such as steam train rides and clay pigeon shooting, there are many well-known attractions within an hour’s scenic drive. Among the most notable are Loch Ness, Culloden Battlefield (the site of the last battle on British soil), the Queen’s summer residence of Balmoral, and a number of famous whisky distilleries.
Aviemore is located in the Cairngorms National Park in northern Scotland, nestled within the Spey Valley in the Grampian Mountains.
On the slopes
Cairngorm Mountain’s somewhat variable snow cover means the ski centre can be open from late November through to June. However, the skiing can be limited at any time during that period if a warm spell melts all the snow in January or an extreme weather event such as gale-force winds closes the slopes – the strongest ever gusts in the United Kingdom have been recorded here.
Beginners will normally take the funicular up to a flat area of nursery slopes at the top of the Ptarmigan area, at almost 1,100m (3,609ft). The altitude of the slopes means this is one of the most snowsure areas on Cairngorm Mountain, and the centre manages to keep at least some of the area open here, even in a bad year.
Most of the marked trails are suited to intermediate skiers, but there are also some steep runs for the more advanced. The most challenging run is the West Wall black at Coire na Ciste, while The White Lady down to the Sheiling station can also be taxing when the bumps build up.
There’s also a terrain park for free riders, the scope of which varies to some extent depending on snow conditions; while smaller areas are also set up at various points when conditions are good.