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Location: snowHeadLand
Resort: Glencoe Mountain Resort
Country: Scotland
Domain: none
Author: what...snow (Neil)
Date: Janary-April 2008, 5 visits. Occasional visits in 1980's and 2007
Our holiday: I live in the Northwest of England currently. I usually drive up for the weekend and stay with a relative (obviously this isn't an option for everyone). I've skied here with friends, with people I met on winterhighland (all good company) and on my own.
Website : http://glencoemountain.com/store/snowreport.php
http://www.winterhighland.info/
http://www.haggistrap.co.uk/
Basics : On the A82 about 1 1/2 hrs drive from Glasgow, about 30mins before you reach Fort William. (See snowball's Nevis Range report for further info. From the South, Glencoe is 40mins closer on the same road)
Lift system : 7 lifts: From the Carpark at 300m it's a 2 man called the Access Chair. Then the Plateau draglift (accesses the green run & is used all day by beginners), then a green run (Mugs Alley) which takes you to the (parallel) Cliffhanger Chair and Wall T-bar (near here there is a tiny trainer tow). Between the top of these are the Main Basin T-bar & Top Button draglift. All are antiquated, this area has the worst infrastructure in Scotland (& that is some stiff competition). The Top Button was broken in a storm in January & never ran in 2008. There do tend to be queues for the Main Basin on busy weekends. Up to 15mins wait on opening (bluebird) day but much less on all other days.
The terrain : This has been a ski area since 1956 and it was with good reason that they chose here for the first ski tows in Scotland. From the top numerous natural gullies form. No snow fences or signage, to get to many runs you may need to ask for some directions. Don't worry, everyone speaks English (well sort of...). On the right from the top of the tows are 3 blues, all of which can be skied back to the start of the higher or mid-mountain tows. Pisting is somewhat lacklustre but most likely to be done on the Main Basin, which may also have some terrain park features. At the top on the left there is a small 'expert skiers only' sign, marking the start of the traverse. This leads to 2 reds & 1 black and a few off-piste options. Even the end of the traverse feels like backcountry. From here a variety of routes lead back to the Plateau or mid-mountain tows.
Particular features of note include the Black run (The Flypaper) which is the steepest in Scotland for its short steep section, the Haggis Trap at the bottom of the Main Basin run (a natural feature which disappeared due to snow buildup in mid January this year, but can be seen standing about 20ft high on the right of the Haggistrap frontpage) and the short but steep reds at mid-mountain level.
Although not always possible, Glencoe really comes into its own when there is snow to the Carpark level. This gives >800m vertical descent & a choice of 2.5+km runs. This was possible for about 4w, mid Jan to mid-feb IIRC in 2008. More usual is 430m vertical to the Plateau level.
The snow : Despite Scotland's reputation for ice & wind, I had days of proper snow and proper sunshine. Up to date unbiased info on the snow is readily available from Winterhighland's Public Reports section and the weather is Britain's favourite topic of conversation. Vast amounts of meterological information is available online. If there are gales & the hill is stormbound (or if there's no snow) it is likely to have been forecast.
Off-piste : Has its own dedicated website! Haven't done any over the back of the mountain but you will frequently be alone from the end of the traverse. The on/off-piste distinction is very blurred. There are two rusting poles marking the top of the pistes but no other markings.
The resort : In 2008 Glencoe shut 2 days each midweek - check their website for information. Kingshouse Hotel is within 1 mile, Bridge of Orchy Hotel to the south or Clachaig Inn to the north. Fort William about 30mins away or some villages closer, but this is really Glasgow's ski centre. Drive north through Glencoe proper is spectacular and decent scenery starts at Loch Lomond, within 30mins of Glasgow on the way north.
Food : Cafe at the base station is OK, Plateau Cafe near the base of the Cliffhanger could do with (considerable) improvement. The Real Food Cafe about 30 mins south in Tyndrum is a top fish'n'chip shop with a large menu (this is West Coast Scotland, no Raclette etc).
Accommodation : Maybe some climbing websites would give unbiased reviews of the local hotels, hostels & hostelries. It's on the West Highland Way & Glencoe is a major climbing & hillwalking centre.
Costs: Day ticket is £25. Access chair starts about 8.30am, lifts start shutting about 4pm. I again recommend self-catering for lunch but pie'n'chips + drink>£5. For most of us, the expensive bit is getting there. It is possible to get there by Public Transport. A bus from Glasgow takes 2hrs & leaves about 7am. Return is either about 3 or 7pm (check stagecoach website) which has put me off trying it.
Conclusion: Closest ski centre to most of the UK's population, easiest to drive to, small but with a very special atmosphere and great views. First 8 photos here were taken at or of Glencoe, then other areas in the UK: http://picasaweb.google.com/neil2829/SeasonFavourites

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