Scottish skiing holidays are much derided, but when conditions are good they can be very good. So we’ve pulled together 11 tips to ski Scotland, to help you make the most of the UK’s only ski resorts.
Scottish skiing holidays
Skiing in Scotland is unique with plenty of quirks. There is a slightly different set-up, plus a distinct ski culture, landscape and après scene.
That said, there are similarities to the Alps and ski resorts the world over. After all sliding on snow doesn’t change, so the gear and the skills you need are the same. You’ll find graded pistes, a network of lifts and, hopefully, plenty of the white stuff.
There is more skiing in Scotland than most people realise. With five resorts – Glencoe, Glenshee, Cairngorm (closed for 19/20 season), Nevis Range and Lecht – there are plenty of options. Sizes vary from 20 to 36 slopes and all have enough mountain to be a lot of fun.
Top 11 tips to ski Scotland
To make the most of these Scottish skiing holidays you will need to adapt expectations to the Highlands. So to make the most from your trip, follow these top 11 tips to ski in Scotland:
Get some wheels
Unlike most ski resorts in the Alps accommodation is not near the slopes, so you’ll need a car to access Scotland’s ski areas. If you are within driving distance bring your own, alternatively hire a car in Edinburgh when you arrive.
And don’t panic about snow on the roads. They’re cleared regularly if the ski area is open. But make sure you check their open before setting off.
With Scotland’s changeable weather conditions, advance planning can be risky. Unpredictable winds, warm temperatures and at times rainfall can ruin the snow cover. Lack of snow means resorts shut completely, often for days at a time.
To avoid disappointment, wait to see what the week ahead looks like. Conditions can be fantastic when heavy snowfall is followed by crisp Scottish skies. So be ready to hit the road whenever conditions look good.
Use online resources
The resort websites show the conditions and will let you know what is open. Use them and other resources to plan your trip and to ensure you don’t waste your time visiting when things are closed.
One of the top tips to ski Scotland is to sign up to the Visit Scotland Snow Alert. It provides snow conditions and forecasts, news from the slopes and deals direct fromthe resorts in time to plan your weekend.
Choose your base
With accommodation in Scottish ski resorts pretty much non-existent you will need to stay off the mountain. Choosing where to stay will impact your daily travel time and what you have going on on the evenings. Below are the closest towns to each resort:
- Cairngorm Mountain: Aviemore
- Glencoe Mountain Resort: Glencoe Village, Tyndrum and Ballachulish
- Glenshee Ski Centre: Blairgowrie and Braemar
- Nevis Range: Fort William
- The Lecht Ski Centre: Strathdon and Tomintoul
For those who don’t drive then Aviemore is a great base as there is a regular shuttle bus to Cairngorm. If you fly into Inverness a transfer to Aviemore takes about 47 minutes. From an early morning flight you can be on the slopes by mid-morning.
Don’t worry about being bling
Scottish ski resorts are wonderfully welcoming and un-intimidating places. If you’ve got all the latest gear, great. But if you’re skiing in your an old jacket and waterproof trousers, no one’s going to sneer.
Arrive early to hire kit
All five ski centres hire out skis, snowboards, boots and poles. Some do the full works, with salopettes and goggles on offer too. But when the snow’s good, hire gear flies off the shelves. So get there early to grab the right size.
Take your own kit
If you’re fussy about what you ski or board on, bring your own gear. Hire gear on Scottish skiing holidays is fairly basic with limited choice.
In good conditions resorts get packed-out on weekends and during school holidays. There’ll still be plenty of space on the slopes, but queuing for passes, lifts and snack bars can eat into your Scottish skiing holidays.
So one of the top tips to ski Scotland is to visit Monday to Friday. You’ll often find empty slopes and no queues even when conditions are good.
Push yourself to improve
While there might not be the miles or the vertical you are used to elsewhere make use of your time to improve. Scotland’s ski resorts offer everything from ski touring and avalanche-safety training, to specialist ski lessons and freestyle courses.
It is all aimed at improving your technique or learning new skills. This way you can make the most of your time on the snow, and next time you are in the Alps you’ll be a better skier.
Après the Scottish way
Forget Glühwein and fondue, Scottish après involves haggis, neaps (turnips), tatties (potatoes) and a dram or five of whisky. You’ll find this winning combination at almost any pub, bar, hotel or restaurant. If you’re looking for local nightlife, seek out ceilidhs and live bands.
See more of Scotland
Unlike the Alps, you won’t be stuck in a ski resort and restricted to snow sports alone. There is lots more to do!
For example, from Nevis or Glencoe visit the world’s largest indoor ice-climbing wall at Kinlochleven or go whisky tasting in the Ben Nevis Distillery. If you’re in the Eastern Highlands, try walking with reindeer or tee-off on a world class golf resort.
We hope you found these top 11 tips to ski Scotland useful. Please check out our Scotland adventure sports discounts as you could save a fortune on your next trip.