Best day of ski touring in Scotland: Ben Lawers
When the weather is as perfect as it was on Saturday I would not want to be anywhere other than Scotland. A forecast of ample snow cover, fresh powder, calm conditions and sunshine meant we could plan a Scottish ski touring outing. I can’t remember the last time the conditions were so fantastic in Scotland – and on a weekend.
We decided to team up with new friends Nienke and Michael, both of whom are great skiers but were new to Scottish ski touring. They were keen to explore the Ben Lawers range and they had spotted a great route in a Scottish ski touring book.
With so much snow we knew we would be able to easily ski the mountains in this (usually) easily accessible mountain range and make up our own route, although it was good to refer to the book.
We had also checked the avalanche warnings prior to setting off and then worked out which slopes would be worst / not affected. See SAIS.
Driving through the snow to ski in Scotland
When the snow comes, the journey to the skiing hotspot can be the most challenging part of he day. We set off early from just north of Glasgow, while N & M were coming from Edinburgh. To start with the roads were slow and snowy and we doubted we would reach Callander, let alone Killin, en route to Ben Lawers.
But we took it slowly and carefully and finally made it to the road (A827) along the north shore of Loch Tay. We hoped we might be able to access the Ben Lawers car park via the singletrack road that zig-zags up to a height of 450m. It was immediately obvious when we arrived that we would need a high performance 4WD vehicle or a tractor, so we decided to park at the roadside and “skin” up by skis.
Plenty of other people were doing the same. It felt like an amazing place to be that morning with people heading away from the road into a snowy playground to ski, snowshoe and hike. If you had closed your eyes and landed there you might have imagined it was a different country.
I heard later in the day that the roads to the main Scottish ski resorts, especially Glencoe, were blocked with traffic tailed back for some six miles. I felt blessed that we have touring skis and do not need to rely on ski lifts.
A day of ski touring on Ben Lawers
In total, from car to car, we skied almost 800m of ascent and descent over 12kms travelled. At the start of the outing we followed the road that we might normally drive. It was surreal to be skiing on thick snow on a road. We traversed the hillside for a while, before rejoining the road.
It was weird to see “passing place” signs as we skied along. At the car park, the snow was deep and half covering the sign.
We continued up the side of the mountain and then spotted a short descent on fluffy looking snow. We decided to take the skins off, lock down our heels and see what it felt like. It was great fun although short-lived!
Again we added the skins to our skis, unlocked out heels and set off to ski uphill again. We climbed higher this time and into an area of stiff wind. We discussed avalanche risk amongst ourselves at regular intervals.
Looking out across the mountain area we decided to ski down again and head across the lower moor to reach the other side of the glen, where we would ski uphill and find another place for some descending fun.
At times we chatted to each other as we skied, learning about each other’s lives and aspirations, while also marvelling aloud at the stunning beauty of the snow-covered landscape. At other times, we skied in a line, quietly enjoying the tranquility and rhythm of sliding uphill.
While I have hiked and run in the Ben Lawers range before, including completing the Artemis Great Kindrochit Quadrathlon with G some years ago, the blanket of snow added a new dimension to Scotland’s fabulous outdoors arena. It seemed more peaceful and brighter somehow.
The final descent was much longer and offered a lot of fun and games. The unpredictable nature of the snow, from consolidated, to wind swept, to deep powder and then a few areas of just-popping-up grass, heather and rock made the skiing quite challenging. However, it was the best skiing I have enjoyed off-piste in Scotland and the fact we could ski back down the road to reach the car again made it even more special.
As we descended we met more people coming off the mountains and they all had tales of a fabulous day out. Their smiles were easily as big as ours as we packed up our ski kit and returned home.
It had been one of the most amazing days in Scotland for skiing.