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Ski touring at Glencoe Mountain

Written by Fiona

January 31 2020

People have been asking me about my recent ski touring trip to Glencoe Mountain. With limited options and doubts about the quality of snow on other mountains, we decided to head to the resort to take advantage of an uplift.

It’s wonderful when you can skin uphill from the side of the road but the snow was sparse lower down the slopes when we were in Glen Coe.

At Glencoe Mountain you can buy a single uplift on the chairlift from the car park for £12 each. Although the resort cafe and building has recently been hit by fire, it’s still possible to buy ski passes for the ski area and the chairlift is working.

We were a small group, including Hubby G, Martin, Joe and Becky. It was Becky’s first time ski touring although she is an experienced downhill skier.

Chairlift fro the car park at Glencoe resort.
View along the valley fro the chairlift.

Can I ski tour in Scotland?

This is another question I am asked. Thanks to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, it’s possible to ski tour on all hills and mountains. But you do need enough snow coverage and you also need to be a reasonably able and confident skier.

Ski touring usually requires tricky downhill skiing and off-piste in Scotland can be the hardest kind of skiing. A typical slope might include fabulous powder (if you are lucky), ice, rocks and heather. All of this can occur within 50m of one slope!

However, I have only been skiing for five or six years and I manage to ski in Scotland. I have found that off-piste is easier in many ways than in-resort because the snow tends to be softer and less hard-packed and icy. It also means you are away from the crowds.

You should be able to cope with unpredictable gradients, manage quick turns when you spot rocks and ice and be confident in white-out conditions or cloud.

The weather in Scotland is notoriously fickle and a day can start with low cloud and sleet, then have sunny spells, mixed with wind and then snow again. I think that when you do have nice conditions it seems all the more rewarding.

A question of safety

Off-piste skiing and ski touring requires a higher level of safety than in-resort skiing. You need to be avalanche aware (check the avalanche forecast before you even set out) and you should have all the kit and know what to do if you have the misfortune to be caught in an avalanche.

We always take transceivers, snow shovel and probe. An avalanche airbag or rucksack is a good idea as well, if you can afford one. I hear rumours of Osprey’s new avalanche airbag pack being rather fab.

Also, you should have a map and compass. Navigating the mountains on skis is similar to hill walking. It van be a bit of a guess as to where the good snow is when there has not been a lot of snow in Scotland but if you arrive at a slope that you do not like the look of you can always skin back yphill.

Our favourite run of the day was Spring Run. We took a look at Flypaper but decided it was not in good condition.

Our highest point of the day.

Earn your turns

After the chairlift we skinned up to the top of the mountain, skied down to wards the mountain cafe, skinned back up and skied to the cafe for coffee and lunch. We then set out to ski up towards the summit again for the final ski back to the top of the chairlift.

Glencoe Mountain allows you to descend by chairlift.

Because we skied uphill and well as downhill we used a lot more energy and calories and my legs were tired by the end of the day.

If you are unsure about ski touring, why not book a course with a guide? You can also hire ski touring kit in Scotland from places such as Craigdon, Braemar Mountain Sports and Tiso.

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