Scotland has been enjoying some amazing snowy conditions so far this winter and with the XXIII Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games about to kick off tomorrow it’s likely more Scots will be inspired to give skiing or snowboarding a try. oHere is the lowdown on where t ski – and a range of other snow-based activities to try.
Skiing and Snowboarding
Surrounded by beautiful Highland and Aberdeenshire scenery, the country’s five northerly ski centres are easily accessible from all of Scotland’s cities and the north of England. See www.ski-scotland.com
This centre has a reputation as one of the most beautiful and popular places to ski in the UK, as well as boasting Scotland’s only funicular railway. Visitors will also find the highest restaurant in the UK at CairnGorm Mountain.
Taking its name from the Gaelic ‘Glen of the Fairies’, Glenshee offers a magical skiing experience in Scotland being the largest resort. It covers an area of more than 2,000 acres extending across four mountains and three valleys and boasting 21 lifts and tows.
This centre has skiing up to 1190 metres (3,900ft) and extends high on to the mountain of Aonach Mor. The Nevis Range Mountain Gondola, the only of its kind in Britain, was built on Aonach Mor originally as a way to transport skiers to the slopes. The gondola is also widely used as a short cut by climbers on their journey to the clouds.
Situated in the stunning Eastern Cairngorms at 2,090ft above sea level, The Lecht is also at the heart of the UK’s largest national park. The resort has grown from one ski tow to a year-round Highland activity centre with 20 maintained ski runs and 14 lifts.
The most historic of all five centres in Scotland, Glencoe is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty on the edge of the wild Rannoch Moor and offers stunning views of the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor.
Glencoe is Scotland’s oldest ski centre and has a reputation as being a great venue for the more experienced skier, though there are also plenty of options for beginners and intermediates too.
This invigorating activity, see my recent outing, best day of ski touring in Scotland, combines mountaineering and skiing skills. It is a fantastic way to experience the untouched mountain backcountry of the Highlands.
A few activity centres offer ski touring courses and guided tours in the majestic Cairngorms, including Glenmore Lodge and G2 Outdoor. Both of these operators are based near Aviemore in the Highlands, which can be reached from Glasgow by road in less than three hours.
Cross Country Skiing
Alongside downhill skiing, cross-country skiing on Scotland’s snowy mountains is on offer for experienced and suitably equipped enthusiasts. Guided courses with Glenmore Lodge are a good way to get started.
You’ll also find Britain’s only purpose-built, all-weather Nordic centre in the Aberdeenshire town of Huntly, which caters for all levels, from novice to elite. If snow conditions are good, high level trails in nearby Clashindarroch Forest are used. If not, then it’s on to a 400 metre all-weather mat, or forget the snow and have some fun roller-skiing along an 800 metre tarmac track.
Other snowy activities
Sled Dog Safari
There is quite a big sled dog racing scene in Scotland, with popular rallies taking place in the winter months. Aviemore is home to a designated centre for the sport. You can meet the hardworking canines at the kennels and sled dog museum, or book a sled dog safari, training session or course with the Cairngorm Sleddog Centre.
Curling is on the list of the many great things that the Scots have invented and when it comes to international curling competitions, our athletes do us proud. Play it for yourself and you will soon find that curling is a lot of fun.
There are curling clubs at ice rinks across the country, from Dumfries in the south to Elgin in Moray Speyside. Sometimes, when a cold spell hits and lochs and ponds freeze over, curling is played outdoors.
Strap on a pair of snowshoes, grab some poles and get walking across blankets of snow. See my snow shoe adventure on Beinn Ime. I have spotted many more people using snow shoes instead of hiking through deep snow in the hills and mountains of Scotland this year.
Perthshire-based Mains of Taymouth organise snow shoeing trips or you could join C-N-Do Scotland on a guided expedition – their trips range from half-day taster sessions in Callander, the Trossachs, to two-day excursions in the northern Cairngorms, and they can provide the equipment.
Skating & ice hockey
There are more than 20 rinks spread across Scotland offering all sorts of fun on ice. Some specialise in curling, while others also offer skating and ice hockey. Ice fans can have a go or spectate at an exciting ice-hockey match.
This is another Olympic winter sport you can try in Scotland, combining the endurance athleticism of cross-country skiing with the skill and millimetre precision of rifle shooting, is biathlon. Courses, led by former six-time Olympian biathlete Mike Dixon, are available at Glenmore Lodge
For more information on winter sports in Scotland, see www.visitscotland.com/blog/snowsports/winter-sports-scotland/