Ski Scotland: Five days in the Scottish Highlands

15th October 2019 | OTS Staff

News Regions: Scotland

Resorts in this article: Nevis Range, Lecht, Glencoe, Glenshee, Cairngorm

A busy day at Cairngorm, Scotland with visitors lined up and ready to go.

A busy day at Cairngorm, Scotland with visitors lined up and ready to go.

Copyright: Cairngorm Mountain

OnTheSnow has put together five perfect days' skiing in Scotland, with a day spent in each of the Scottish ski areas - Cairngom, Nevis Range, Glencoe, Glenshee and The Lecht.

Find the best ski slopes, lunch spots, and where to go for apres-ski and lodging.

Ski Scotland: Day one - Cairngorm

Cairngorm is Scotland's best-known ski area with a reputation as one of the most beautiful and challenging ski destinations in the UK. It is also home to Scotland's only funicular railway. There are 12 lifts, including the funicular train, serving the seven green runs, six blue, eight red and one black.

Morning: Beginners will find easy green runs just up from the Main Car Park and beside the Ptarmigan Centre in the Ptarmigan Bowl, accessed via the funicular from the Base Station. Intermediates can hit the Coire Cas, where they'll find a choice of long green and blue runs to practise turns. The M2 is a good long blue run starting from the Ptarmigan Centre at the top of the mountain and stretching two miles all the way down to the car parks. Confident skiers should hit the red Ciste Gully or the black Coire na Ciste.

Lunch: Located at the Top Station at CairnGorm Mountain, the Ptarmigan Restaurant is the highest restaurant in the UK - at 1,097m. Most of the food served at the Ptarmigan Restaurant is sourced from local ingredients and the menu is wide ranging. Typically it will also include homemade soups and baked scones, cappuccinos and the famous CairnGorm Hot Chocolate Mountain. It's also a great place to sample some of the local ales and Speyside malt. A children's menu is available too.

Afternoon: Freestyle fans can hit the snowpark. Cairngorm Snowboard Club coaches freestyle snowboarding to all levels and ages, so even the kids can shred it up. Alternatively, spend a fun afternoon at the sledging park, located next to the Ptarmigan Restaurant. Sledges can be hired for £5 per session although it is advisable to check that the sledge park is open before you buy a ticket on the mountain railway to get there.

Apres-ski/Lodging: The nearest town is Aviemore, with a good selection of hotels, B&Bs, hostels, bars and restaurants.

Tania train at Cairngorm Mountain, Scotland  - © Cairngorm

Tania train at Cairngorm Mountain, Scotland

Copyright: Cairngorm

Ski Scotland: Day two - Nevis Range

Nevis Range has skiing up to 1190 metres 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. 

Morning: The beginner's area is accessed from the top station, with a variety of easy green and blue runs. The runs are predominately wide and open with some challenging blue and red runs in the main Snowgoose bowl for intermediates. Further up the mountain is an extensive network of red and black runs for more advanced skiers, as well as the Summit Park snowpark.

Lunch: The Snowgoose restaurant, located at the gondola top station, serves fresh local produce. On a sunny day, take lunch on the terrace with views across Lochaber. Alternatively, for a quick pick-me-up, have a wee dram of whiskey.

Afternoon: The imposing off-piste of the Back Corries, accessed by the Braveheart Chair, offer a steep challenge to even the most experienced of skiers. The expanse of freeriding here is unrivalled anywhere else in Scotland and is popular with both intermediates and advanced skiers. The Nevis Range ski area faces north and northeast so the snow build up is good, particularly the off-piste. These great conditions can however pose avalanche risks, so we advise that you consult with SkiPatrol to verify the snow conditions and avalanche risks before attempting this challenging backcountry terrain.

Families looking for a non-skiing activity can visit the Mountain Discovery Centre, at the top station, offering interactive displays educating adults and children about the wildlife, mountain habitat and landscape.

Apres-ski/Lodging: Nevis Range is seven miles north of Fort William where much of the accommodation and après-ski facilities are based.

Heading down the slopes at Nevis Range with an awesome view over Fort William  - © Charne Hawkes

Heading down the slopes at Nevis Range with an awesome view over Fort William

Copyright: Charne Hawkes

Ski Scotland: Day three - Glencoe

Glencoe is Scotland's original ski centre dating back to 1956. 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. In total Glencoe has seven lifts serving its runs: four green, five blue, six red and one black.

Morning: Complete beginners can enjoy the gentle plateau runs while experts can experience the incredible variety of terrain. Beginners can take the Cliffhanger chairlift up to the green Mugs Alley -- a wide expanse of green terrain. Intermediates should take a right at the top of the mountain for the blue runs of Happy Valley and the Etive Glades -- both wide with excellent views. Advanced skiers can take a left at the top for the red runs of the Rannoch Glades and the Spring Run. Experts can take a hard-left at the top for the black runs and the Flypaper -- the steepest pisted run in Scotland.

Lunch: The Log Cabin Café is located at the base of the chairlift and serves home-cooked, locally sourced produce from 9 a.m. The main menu is served all day and includes home cooked soups, bakes, roasts and venison burgers.

Afternoon: Glencoe has some of the best freestyle runs in the country. There's no snowpark, but the mountain provides plenty of natural freestyle challenges -- hit the natural pipes of the Canyon and Thrombosis or the gully jump at the Haggis Trap. Snowboarding lessons are also available at the centre.

For a fun activity away from the slopes, take a Harry Potter Safari. The third Harry Potter, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, was filmed on location in Glencoe in May and June 2003. Although all traces of the set have now been removed, the tour will still show you some recognisable landscapes.

Apres-ski/LodgingThe Clachaig Inn at Glencoe has won an award for its real ales and holds a beer festival in March; the inn also offers accommodation. Glencoe has recently built Hobbit Houses which offer its first onsite accommodation. For a wider choice of lodging and apres-ski, head to Fort William 26 miles; Crianlarich 23 miles; or Glasgow 74 miles.

Freestyle boarders at Glencoe, Scotland  - © Glencoe Mountain Ltd

Freestyle boarders at Glencoe, Scotland

Copyright: Glencoe Mountain Ltd

Ski Scotland: Day four - Glenshee

Glenshee offers more lifts and terrain than any other UK ski centre. Its 36 runs are served by 21 lifts and the longest run, Glas Maol, stretches 1.5 miles. 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.

Morning: Beginners will find the nursery slopes conveniently located next to the main car park. After a few lessons, take the lifts up to the wider range of green runs. Intermediates have 26 blue and red runs to choose from Intermediates can hit the wide choice of blue and red runs, varying from the long and exhilarating to the short and steep. Don't miss the wide open pistes of the Thunderbowl. Experienced skiers can try the steep runs of the Tiger, Glas Moal or the Carn Osda.

Lunch: Glenshee has three cafes serving a wide range of snacks and meals: Base Café serves fast food and is fully licensed so you can enjoy a gluhwein at the end of the day; Cairnwell Café is situated at the bottom of the Cairnwell T-Bar and offers panoramic views of the ski area and provides hot and cold meals; and Meall Odhar café has an alpine feel and serves snacks and lunches.

Afternoon: Intermediates and experienced skiers can venture up to the wide open expanses at Coire Fionn and Glas Maol, practise tricks on the natural quarter-pipes of Butchart's Coire or at the manmade snowpark (snow dependent), and time turns on the Slalom Race Track at Cairnwell.

Apres-ski/Lodging: Apres-ski tends to centre around the hotels in the area which usually have a lively atmosphere and feature regular ceilidhs and discos throughout the winter. A wider range of amenities are found in the nearby towns of Braemar, Blairgowrie and Ballater.

Freestyle boarder in Glenshee, Scotland  - © Glenshee

Freestyle boarder in Glenshee, Scotland

Copyright: Glenshee

Ski Scotland: Day five - The Lecht

The Lecht has some of the most consistent snow in Scotland, largely due to heavy investment in snowmaking technology. The skiable terrain stretches 12 miles and is divided into 18 runs: seven blue, five red, five green, and one black.

Morning: For first-timers, there is a good nursery area with five tows specifically for beginners. Easy green runs include Petrel, Bunting, Wren and Robin, easily accessible from the car park. Intermediates can hit the blue Grouse, Eagle and Osprey, while advanced skiers enjoy the more challenging red Buzzard and Falcon or the black Harrier.

Lunch: Lecht Lodge houses a self service café and a top floor bar, all with views over the ski slopes. Wi-fi internet access is available for the non skiers.

Afternoon: For some light-hearted afternoon fun, head to the snowpark with its half-pipe, log slides, table tops, rails and boxes and tables. Racers can time themselves on the race piste with its own computer timing system and Rapid slalom poles. For a break from skiing, head to the snowtubing piste. Snowtubing offers fun for all ages; accessed via the magic carpet lift (hire of the tube includes lift pass). 

Apres-ski/Lodging: During the ski season there are often ceilidhs, live music and discos. The nearest hotel is in Corgarff. Local pubs and hotels are found in Tomintoul, Grantown on Spey, Glenlivet, Ballindalloch, Strathdon and Ballater. The Lecht is reached by road from Inverness or Aberdeen in about 75 minutes in good weather, so there is the option of staying in the cities.

The Lecht lower slopes, Scotland  - © The Lecht

The Lecht lower slopes, Scotland

Copyright: The Lecht

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