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Skiing in Scotland for the first time.

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Evening Snowheads.

Mr Owlette and I are, like many Brits I imagine, considering Scotland for February half term skiing next year, as with two young children in school (and me working in one), we can't isolate for two weeks on our return.

I've just been looking at Ben Nevis, but the prices seem astronomical. When we compare it to what we paid in Austria in February this year, it seems significantly more expensive. I appreciate that this is possibly because it's Ben Nevis.

Whilst the pull to ski BN is strong, we can't quite face spending that. Would love some family friendly recommendations for two confident children, 7 and 9, with a decent ski school and plenty of blues and greens for us less confident adults. We hire our equipment (helmets excepted).

Thank you Smile
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Be aware that you can't really plan anything in scotland much more than a day or two in advance. When it's good it's great but predictable is one thing it certainly isn't.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@Owlette, Have you looked at the Lecht ? Maybe stay in Tomintoul.
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Yeah, you don't really go to Scotland for skiing holidays. (I learned to ski in Scotland in the 70s and 80s. I doubt the climate has changed that much in the 22 years since I last tried it.)

For winter countryside holidays it can be pretty nice though.

I think Glenshee has the most extensive uplift https://www.ski-glenshee.co.uk/Piste-Map - rather delighted to see they've extended beyond Meall Odhar!

You could stay in the Fife Arms in Braemar, which is apparently really quite exceptional.
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under a new name wrote:


You could stay in the Fife Arms in Braemar, which is apparently really quite exceptional.


Aye and exceptionally expensive
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@rjs
Thanks for that, I just had a look. The pistes look good for us. Struggling to find prices other than the ski school Beginner package at the moment, which still works out at over £1000 for the week.

Wondering if it might be worth considering a different approach. Doing a shorter trip, and not putting the children into ski school, and just having them with us the whole time. We've got our 'proper' ski holiday booked for next Christmas. This is just us trying to figure out if we can squeeze in a cheaper one over half term. Which sadly looks like it might not be the case.

@kb36, I had noticed that on a couple of sites. I'm a planner for stuff like this, so that makes me twitch. Just checked the restricted travel list and Germany is currently exempt so now I'm pondering that.

Mr Owlette is keen to not spend a huge amount in February. We all just want to ski (this is the trouble with having the children's ski school photos up in the living room, they torment us).
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kb36 wrote:
under a new name wrote:


You could stay in the Fife Arms in Braemar, which is apparently really quite exceptional.


Aye and exceptionally expensive

The new owners seem to have bought the Invercauld Arms as well.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
As said above you cant plan ahead for skiing north of the border. Best to have half a game plan then execute it a few days before when the stars align (snow and low wind). Dont rule out glenshee (for family friendly terrain) for a day maybe two at a push, you can happily hit it from dundee/Perth for accom area (although I haven't driven the road from glenshee south). I haven't really noticed a ski school in glenshee or lecht but there is/was in aviemore.
Your family have also to be happy to use tow lifts ie poma.
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@Owlette, If you stay in Braemar then that's quite convenient for Glenshee and not too far to the Lecht also. Self catering accommodation is probably cheapest, you could try the Braemar Lodge cabins (I've stayed with friends in them and they were very nice) or Braemar cabins (I've no experience of these but they look good also). snowHead
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Do you have your own gear (skis+boots) although they do rent gear when the stars align over a weekend or school holidays the ques for rental gear is crazy at lecht and glenshee and I presume same at the other hills.
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For what's its worth I have had some amazing days at glenshee, aviemore and lecht!
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
I've looked at the piste map fof Glenshee, and I liked what I saw. Unfortunately we don't have our own skis/boots, otherwise I'd be all for throwing them in the car and just heading to Scotland for a couple of days skiing if the conditions allow.

@Alastair Pink, we prefer SC, so I'll have a look, thank you.

Just been down a Finland/Sweden wormhole. Scotland is looking very reasonable in comparison! Shocked
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I think you can prebook skis hire in Perth. Traveling from the Perth/dundee area opens opens up cheap hotels ie travelodge etc.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
@Owlette,

Scotland can be great for skiing but as others have said, planning to come up here and ski every day as you would do in Austria will most likely leave you disappointed. The ski areas are tiny compared with Europe so if you did want to spend a full week skiing you would be better trying two or three of the different areas out if the snow cover allows.

It’s also possible there could be no snow at all in the week you choose(even in Feb), or just a run or two open, or abysmal weather etc, etc. This year if conditions are good(and we aren’t locked down again)it will most likely be VERY busy especially during school holidays.

Book a nice hotel, hope you can ski some nice snow in nice weather but don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t work out that way.
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I’m all for Scottish skiing, I’ve had plenty of amazing days.... but also a fair few ‘character building’ ones too! As others have said flexibility is key, plan it as winter holiday.. bring the bikes and walking boots etc, and if the stars align and you score a few days of good ski conditions then its a bonus. Also.... don’t want to be a doom-monger, but don’t forget there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to travel within the UK in Feb either . Cancellable booking if possible!
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Skiing in Scotland can be VERY cold - you need good gear. Cairngorm in a wind is 'like being sandblasted but with Snow.." : Cairngorm in the Sun is Lush...
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Given the possible lack of overseas skiing, if conditions in Scotland are good all the areas could be overrun. How will they handle excess demand? First-come first-served - so once the car parks fill up everyone else is turned away - and you might need to arrive at say 06:00 to get on the hill ? Limited number of pre-purchased passes only, with no walk-up tickets?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
albob wrote:
Skiing in Scotland can be VERY cold - you need good gear. Cairngorm in a wind is 'like being sandblasted but with Snow.." : Cairngorm in the Sun is Lush...


Absolutely true and you can see the squalls coming from miles off.

In the days when Cairngorm was a "proper" ski mountain they certainly had instruction as i learnt to ski there in March in fabulous snow but very dodgy weather. You certainly need a windproof and a waterproof layer and may be on a rough day some face protection
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I'll second a lot of what's said above. Scotland is not the Alps or other resorts. It's not set up the same, often: so don't expect the same experience (or terrain, or conditions). You can't even easily read too much into the piste maps sometimes (depends on resort!) - if you can actually see what's underfoot or in front of you (through weather, cloud, spindrift, 10 layers of buffs, etc, etc)!! Often not all runs are open, not all lifts operating. Runs are somewhat limited too, from some people's expectations / viewpoints.
It's a great experience as long as taken as it is, though. Just adjust expectations accordingly.

For easy slopes and plentiful instruction, I'd in the past have said Cairngorm, but with the funicular & other issues there, not so sure. Lecht definitely, Glenshee too. Nevis would also be OK - ticket prices are pretty much the same at all resorts, I recall - but virus-wise you do have to gondola uplift there, which could cause queues and other issues. Probably best avoid Glencoe, though with good snow there's some useable beginner stuff.

Not quite sure how any of them will be handling or pre booking instruction or hire (or indeed tickets) - which could be an issue combined with the ideal flexibility as below.

If you have to book a specific week, book a cottage or hotel, take map, books, camera, walking gear and waterproofs - plus ski gear - and be prepared to drive around chasing where the snow is best or wind least, which ever resort (if any) is open, or else get yourself off to the seaside, loch side walks, waterfalls, driving around, etc etc. No guarantees, even with less than 12h notice.

Location wise, ideally stay somewhere up the A9 which opens up access within an hour or two to Cairngorm, Lecht, Glenshee or pop over to Fort William (for Nevis) as choices dictate - gives maximum flexibility but will possibly need early starts and some guesswork. Perth can work, or Grantown or somewhere in between. Cairngorms, north or south, are lovely places to explore if you can't ski. Or else pick one place and hope...

Nevis Range, BTW, isn't Ben Nevis (nice view of it) but the next mountain along (ish).

And, yes, as a regular Scottish skier (living in very Northern England) I am worried that it's going to be very busy indeed this year (not just half term). Not yet heard how they're planning to control it: if they even let us in at all!
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I warn you weekends in Scotland when its half decent is just one big traffic jam. The best potential days are midweek outside school holidays. Imagine a whole ski area with pomas and t bars and no fast chairs
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I used to drive up to Glenshee from Fife in the 90's on a Wednesday (uni sports afternoon + skiving) if the weather forecast said sunshine and no wind. On arrival, it could be anything from glorious sun to a white out and a howling gale. Glas Maol was excellent. The chair up the tiger was only open 1/10 of the time due to the wind. I got told off for going 'too fast' on the sunny side..... The bothies had stovies and irn bru but no booze and the glamour factor was 0.

Don't forget to shout 'New Line' if you can't be arsed to walk to the top of the lift queue. People should start to queue above you and you just shuffle forward once the queue in front has moved on!

The diving around Oban is good all year around as a back up. Other than that, deer stalking and strip the willow will pass the time.

Best of luck.
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
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For info Nevis range ski isn't on Ben Nevis, it's on a near neighbour called Aonach Mor, a little east of BN but the name helps sell it.
Price wise it's about the same as Cairngorm/Glenshee, is it not?

Otherwise some good info in the thread, a lot of unknowns so don't book.

Mountain biking is very good option if there's no snow or skiing is weathered off.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
One plus is the wonderfully self-organised/regulated queues !

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ecureuil wrote:
Given the possible lack of overseas skiing, if conditions in Scotland are good all the areas could be overrun. How will they handle excess demand? First-come first-served - so once the car parks fill up everyone else is turned away - and you might need to arrive at say 06:00 to get on the hill ? Limited number of pre-purchased passes only, with no walk-up tickets?


I don't know what typical protocol is currently applied but I have seen the full car park thing and limited lift pass sales done. I have also seen unlimited lift pass sales with people hiking an hour up the access road and so many folks that once you'd queued for and skied one run on the "White Lady" it was time for tea.

Does "Bank's of Perth" still exist? We always (as little kids, so early '70s) get our rental (and usually purchased (although CairdSport also featured) ) kit there.
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albob wrote:
Skiing in Scotland can be VERY cold - you need good gear. Cairngorm in a wind is 'like being sandblasted but with Snow.." : Cairngorm in the Sun is Lush...


Technically, and while I am no fan of "wind chill" estimations in weather forecasts, it's not actually that cold (despite Cairngorm summit being of sub-arctic climate) - it is just usually very, very windy. And often the wind is whipping up the snow, hence the dermabrasive effect. Natural face lift, albeit with scarring.

But there's no such thing as bad weather, just poor planning/equipment/foresight/etc.
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I’d almost definitely say you will be disappointed. I grew up near and ultimately working at Glenshee and did my BASI there. I live about 90 mins away now and still sometimes cover weekends.
Firstly treat it as a Scottish half term break with perhaps some skiing. Expect it to be very busy and possibly closed either for weather or it’s simply full. This year in particular I suspect there will be capacity problems and I’ve crossed fingers for big snow. Don’t expect multiple on mountain eateries, sublimely pisted, 10 basher wide pistes. When the stars align and the snow is good and the weather is benign it can be fab. For sheer terrain Glenshee wins IF Glas Maol is accessible, there’s a large burn near the bottom of It which needs a solid snow bridge to get the piste beast across. Lecht good as well. Nevis has advantage of easy access to base and the mighty Coe is always excellent and will be more so when the new chair is commissioned, towers are mostly up but not roped as yet and won’t be this season I don’t think. But in summary, Scotland holiday, you might ski.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
under a new name wrote:


Does "Bank's of Perth" still exist? We always (as little kids, so early '70s) get our rental (and usually purchased (although CairdSport also featured) ) kit there.


Happy to say Banks is still there. They tweaked my boots last season
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
If I were you? I wouldnt planning a ski holiday in English half term up here, and I will not be skiing that week up here either - not worth the hassle.

I only ski here on good days midweek, and even in normal times the lift pass queues can be long.

On the question of ski schools, Fresh Tracks have a big school at Glenshee, all bookable online. Same people also have bookable skis at their place down the hill. For Glenshee, you could self cater in Pitlochry or Blairgowrie perhaps.

It will not be anything like the experience you may have had abroad, it is like comparing camping with a 5 star hotel Very Happy so you have been warned........................
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
I have not read through all the above in detail but I have often wondered about skiing in Scotland so was interested enough to skim through.

Owelette the point I most relate to is to treat it as a winter holiday in Scotland where you might get lucky enough to do some skiing. Book accommodation somewhere you want to stay. We have had many great holidays that way all be in the Jura or the less well known parts of the Alps. Children don`t need lessons every ski holiday so forget them this time.

For that kind of holiday, if you don`t have your own kit, hire all your ski necessities somewhere close to where you live, hire for the whole time you will be away, take them with you, and you thus avoid ques in resort. If you don`t have things like a ski roof box again hire or buy in advance. I don`t know if you can book ski passes on line for any of the Scottish resorts but if you can, and if conditions look good buy them as soon as you have made the decision its a go. Years ago (before online passes) we would sometimes physically go to the lifts/tourist office or outlet where you could buy the required pass the evening before we wanted to ski, again avoiding the morning queues.

I have no idea if any of the above options would work for you, or work in Scotland, but they may be worth considering? Anything to grab a little time on the slope? snowHead
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Quote:

if you can book ski passes on line for any of the Scottish resorts but if you can, and if conditions look good buy them as soon as you have made the decision its a go. Years ago (before online passes) we would sometimes physically go to the lifts/tourist office or outlet where you could buy the required pass the evening before we wanted to ski, again avoiding the morning queues.


Great theory, but not necessarily how it will work irl.

The "prebooked" window at Glenshee was unmanned on my last visit, I was asked to join the end of the main queue - I refused and was not flavour of the month as some people thought I was jumping in rolling eyes

Like I said above - the infrastructure limitations are not simply about uplift.
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 Poster: A snowHead
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Thanks all for your fantastic replies. Grateful to have access to such a wealth of knowledge to ensure we make an informed choice.

We're not after a winter outdoor pursuits holiday, much as we enjoy the odd day here and there. We're in the South West, so Scotland is rather far for us. We'd have made the trek to ski, but for other pursuits, Wales is significantly easier for us.

Alas, it seems that a cheap skiing trip is not to be.

Will resign myself to it being unlikely we'll get away, but willl keep an eye on things and maybe grab a few days in the Alps over half term last minute, and not bother with ski lessons for the children, nor do a full week.

Caravan Skier, you're right, they won't need lessons, so if we did a long weekend, we could just focus on a chilled few days skiing together.
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If things stay as they are COVID wise it is likely to be manic, judging by the way things are on the hill walking front. Car parks are mobbed even mid-week. We were hill walking yesterday and noted that the authorities have now put in double yellows from a car park servicing a popular hill more than half a mile in each direction.

On a more positive note skiing in Scotland can be sublime and many of my best ever skiing days have been here, but they are fleeting. And in that regard I would echo other contributions.

As a final tip, if you do come don’t wear anything white - white clothing and peat do not make for a good look.
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@Owlette, You mentioned Germany higher up but I think they now have inbound restrictions for UK travellers. I would not count on necessarily having the option of skiing in Scotland given that the Scottish government seems to be in favour of lockdowns and restricting travel between England and Scotland at the current time.

There is a chance that in a few months inbound UK quarantine may be reduced to 7 days plus a negative test result after 7 days. If this happens you could consider driving to one of the cheaper resorts in France for the first week of the Easter holidays.
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Glenshee and Nevis Range websites have some guidance on how they plan to operate this season (clearly subject to change).

Glenshee: tickets must be bought a least 24 hours in advance, online, and may be limited in number. Still picked up at the ticket office. One price, not varying with how many lifts are open. No half-days. Equipment hire booked at least 48 hours in advance, and only 2 people (or 1 bubble) pickup at a time.

Nevis Range: Tickets can be bought in advance online. Gondola: temperature check, only share with your houshold bubble, disposable gloves and face covering mandatory.

As you would expect, both will have restricted catering.
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Love the photo of the queue for White Lady t bar, brings back so many great memories.
Home grown skiers from the Scottish areas never cry about t bars!!!
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Rabbie wrote:
under a new name wrote:


Does "Bank's of Perth" still exist? We always (as little kids, so early '70s) get our rental (and usually purchased (although CairdSport also featured) ) kit there.


Happy to say Banks is still there. They tweaked my boots last season


@Downhill Sailor,
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Best Scottish skiing I have had has been in late April/early May at the Nevis Range.
The wind in January/February if there is any snow can make it a miserable expensive experience.
Best times to ski are midweek or when Scotland is playing rugby on a Saturday afternoon.
Had some wonderful apres ski at the Blackwater Inn in my younger years. It's now sadly closed.

Bizarrely some bubble cabins from Meribel and Courchevel have just been installed in the grounds at a pub around the corner from me in Edinburgh.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
Sorry snowHead but nothing on here encourages me to even consider Scotland for a ski trip - which is good news for those that will! Better off doing more trips next season or putting the money wasted (?) towards a trans-atlantic trip!
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Grizzler wrote:
And, yes, as a regular Scottish skier (living in very Northern England) I am worried that it's going to be very busy indeed this year (not just half term). Not yet heard how they're planning to control it: if they even let us in at all!


I`ll be surprised if i ski at all here this season. It`s going to be mobbed. I can get to all the slopes in a couple of hours and i`m probably not going to bother, unless it`s late in the season and during the week.
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Look it’s not all doom and gloom. If you live within spitting distance, obvs not in Covid times ha ha, it’s absolutely brilliant. But it’s not the Alps so just setting some expectations. I’ve skied in some epic places and still Boxing Day 1995 was the best pow day I’ve ever had and that was Cairngorm !
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