Skiers in Scotland have seen bumper snowfalls over the last two winters, with the 2009-10 season one of the snowiest on record and 2010-11 not far behind.
Long-range forecasters, who base their research on sunspot activity, are again predicting another cold and snowy winter for the UK, so it looks like Scotland could be heading for a hat trick.
Skiing in Scotland has become much more popular over the last two winters. Scotland's best-loved ski resort, Cairngorm reported record-breaking numbers at the end of last season: for the first time in 15 years, skiers exceeded 120,000 for two sucessive seasons.
Skiing in Scotland does not have the huge lift-linked ski areas of The Alps, but each individual centre does offer a good range of runs and modern lift systems, just on a smaller scale (40km is the max). Scottish ski centres haven't been allowed to develop into the large-scale resorts of The Alps, instead most skiers tend to stay in nearby towns which offer a good choice of accommodation, restaurants and pubs. Budget airlines now offer direct daily flights to Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen throughout winter.
Skiing in Scotland
[R2781R, Cairngorm] is Scotland's best-known ski area with a reputation as one of the most beautiful and challenging ski destinations in the UK. Cairngorm is also home to Scotland's only funicular railway which takes passengers up to the country's highest restaurant, shop, mountain exhibition and viewing terrace. There are 12 lifts, including the funicular train, serving the seven green runs, six blue, eight red and one black. The longest run stretches two miles. There is also a snowpark for freestyle fans and a sledging park for families. Cairngorm is 10 miles east of the lively village of Aviemore, just off the main A9 route between Perth and Inverness. It can be reached by train from most parts of the UK, including an overnight sleeper train from London, or by flying to Inverness.
Cairngorm's funicular train taking skiers up the mountain
[R1920R, Nevis Range] has skiing up to 1190 metres (3900ft) on the mountain of Aonach Mor. This is Scotland's newest and most modern ski area, located next to Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Lifts include a quad chair and six-person gondola. Situated around the top of the gondola, close to the Snowgoose restaurant, is the area for beginners, including a range of green and blue runs. Further up the mountain is an extensive network of red and black runs, as well as the acclaimed Boardwise Snowpark. Here you'll also find the imposing off-piste of the Back Corries with steep runs to challenge even the most experienced of skiers. The nearest town is Fort William where much of the accommodation and après-ski facilities are based. Fort William can also be reached by train, again including an overnight sleeper option from the south. Some choose drive up from Glasgow.
Boardwise Snowpark at Nevis Range
[R2108R, Glencoe] is Scotland's original ski centre dating back to 1956. It has an awesome location at the South end of a valley. The resort began life as a weekend haunt for dedicated skiers and has become increasingly popular in recent years among more daredevil skiers and riders. It is one run in particular called the Fly Paper - the steepest black run in Britain - that offers the biggest appeal. In total Glencoe has seven lifts serving its runs: four green, five blue, six red and one black. A wide variety of accommodation is available locally. Glencoe is a popular day trip destination for Glaswegians.
Skiing from the summit in Glencoe (credit: Steven Mckenna)
[R1998R, The Lecht] has some of the most consistent snow in Scotland, largey due to heavy investment in snowmaking technology. Situated some 637m (2090ft) above sea level, The Lecht occupies a stunning location in the eastern Cairngorms and is accessed from one of the most scenic roads in Scotland, the A939. It is largely composed of parallel roadside drag lifts and a chairlift imported from French resort Le Grand Bornand. There are 12 miles of terrain split into 18 runs: seven blue, five red, five green, and a black racing piste, with timing and slalom poles. The Lecht also has snowtubing and, when conditions allow, a half-pipe and snowpark. The Lecht recently opened a new £1m base lodge with all facilities. The nearest hotel is in Corgarff. The Lecht is reached by road from Inverness or Aberdeen in about 75 minutes in good weather.
The Lecht's lower slopes
[R2618R, Glenshee] offers more lifts and terrain than any other UK ski centre. It extends 40 kilometres across four mountains and three valleys. Its 36 runs are served by 21 lifts and the longest run, Glas Maol, stretches two kilometres. At the base of the ski centre you'll find a cafe, ski hire shop and ski school. Located close to Braemar and the Queen's summer residence of Balmoral. The resort is popular day trip for people living in Edinburgh.
Getting ready to go up the mountain in Glenshee
Video: skiing in Scotland (Nevis Range, Cairngorm Mountain, Glenshee, The Lecht and Glencoe):
Scotland offers a good choice of indoor and dry ski slopes: SNO!zone's Braehead, Midlothian Snowsports Centre, Pontmonthill Ski Centre, Aberdeen Snowsports Centre, Firpark Ski Centre, Bearsden Ski Club, Glasgow Ski and Snowboard Centre and Newmilns Ski Centre.