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Scottish snowsports and ski touring code

Written by Fiona

January 05 2022

Mountaineering Scotland has created a snowsports and ski touring code of conduct to minimise impact to other people and the environment. The bullet points include:

  • Pay attention to warning signs and stay out of roped areas at ski resorts
  • Avoid travelling across or up groomed pistes on foot or ski
  • Be aware of downhill skiers/boarders, who have right of way
  • Stay clear of grooming machines – they operate 24 hrs and have very long cables attached
  • Keep dogs under control and in sight
  • If you are unsure where to go, check with a member of staff for information on where to ski safely.
Skiing The Flypaper in Glencoe in spring snow.

Why do we need a code?

Snowsports touring (using skis or snow boards) is one of Scotland’s fastest growing mountain activities. More people than ever are moving away from managed resorts, skinning uphill and accessing more remote areas by ski or board.

Many snowsports tourers set off on their adventures from one of Scotland’s five managed ski areas, Aonach Mor, Cairngorm, Glencoe, Glenshee and the Lecht. The resorts all welcome tourers and they are keen to ensure this activity does not impact upon the safety and enjoyment of their downhill snowsport customers.

Legally* snowsports tourers only have access rights within managed resorts if they do not “interfere” with the primary recreational activities (* see below for more detail).

The snowsport tourer’s access code has been developed by Mountaineering Scotland with partners and the endorsement of resort managers and users to raise awareness of tourers’ access rights and responsibilities.

The code is endorsed by:

  • The Association of Scottish Ski Areas
  • Snowsports Scotland
  • British Association of Snowsports Instructors
  • British Association of Ski Patrollers.
Skiing in Scotland.

Think safety when ski touring

Resort operations continue 24 hours a day including during bad weather and whether the area is open or closed.

Respect any warning signs erected by the resorts, keep away from lift lines (even if they are closed) and stay out of roped off areas. Resorts are not as safe when they are closed.

Be alert for snowmobiles, groomer cables and other equipment. Stay clear of all grooming machines – do not assume the operator can see you.

Grooming machines operating at night use winch cat cables which are difficult to see and which may not be directly above the machine. Avoid the slopes where they are operating.

Within resort boundaries you are bound by the International Ski Federation Code of Conduct. Those skiing or snowboarding downhill have right of way.

Be aware of other skiers and snowboarders approaching from above, changing weather conditions and poor visibility. Other skiers or snowboarders may not expect you to be there.

Do not attempt to use a lift unless you have a valid lift ticket. Never get on a lift if it is unmanned as it might stop and not start again.

Minimise your impact

Respect the fact that the resorts have a business to run and the groomers take great pride in providing a quality experience for their paying customers.

Try to plan your route to avoid crossing pistes or, where this isn’t possible, minimise the amount of time doing so and be aware of downhill skiers and snowboarders.

If there is no marked uphill route, stay on the outside of the snow fence on narrow pistes (walk if necessary) or to the edge of the piste when it is wider.

Minimise damage to the freshly groomed runs; remember that after closing, the runs will have been prepared for the next day.

Consider where you might be leaving tracks and how it affects the piste.

Minimise your impact. Do not dig snow holes within resort boundaries.

Keep dogs under close control at all times. Dogs can be seriously injured by skis or snowboards.

* Pay attention to the legal stuff

Section 6 para (1) (e) (ii) of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 states that “the land in respect of which access rights are not exercisable is land ……. which has been developed or set out ….. for a particular recreational purpose”.

However, Section 7 para (7) qualifies this statement and states that “Section 6 (1) (e) ….. prevents the exercise of access rights over land to which it applies only if – the land is being used for the purpose for which it has been developed or set out, and, in the case of land which is not a sports or playing field, the exercise of those rights would interfere with the recreational use to which the land is being put”.

In other words, if touring is considered to be “interfering” with downhill snowsports, then access rights do not exist. However, in the majority of situations, it is unlikely that those who are accessing more remote areas will be interfering with the activities of the managed resorts.

Tourers who use the pisted slopes to descend while the resort is open will not be interfering with the normal operations and therefore access rights do exist.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code states that “active pursuits such as … touring, ski mountaineering” are recreational purposes and are therefore included in the access rights.

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