After my disaster of a first go at snowboarding in New Zealand I think I surprised everyone including myself when I jumped at the chance to give it another go. So Scotland certainly isn’t New Zealand when it comes to snow quality and facilities but it does have a few things your top snow destinations don’t have – accessibility and affordability for someone living in Scotland.
I live in Glasgow and have four ski slopes within a 2.5 hour driving distance and that’s just those I know off the top of my head. This includes the Nevis Range, Glen Coe, Glenshee and the Cairngorm Mountain. On the first weekend of our roadtrip four of other friends, my boyfriend and I spent the weekend away for some snow fun. Our choice of slopes was the Cairngorm Mountain near Aviemore the only problem was for this range to be open you needed the weather on your side….
On the Friday afternoon before we were due to drive up to Loch Insh our accommodation for the weekend; I was eagerly checking the mountain updates. As the day went on things started to look bleaker and bleaker, lessons had be cancelled and there would be an update in the morning. Saturday we woke up to horrific winds and instantly knew the mountain was going to be closed. We needed a plan B, after all six of us had driven all the day up to Aviemore to spend the weekend snowboarding.
Lecht was around an hour from our accommodation in Loch Insh and was one of the only slopes open on that day. Given we had all come away to snowboard we decided to give it a try. Lecht is set in a valley of the Cairngorm National Park and lies on the border of Aberdeenshire. The valley means it has some shelter from the weather and as the mountain isn’t as high as some others it doesn’t sit in a cloud. Unfortunately Lecht is also very small and doesn’t get such a huge snowfall as other Scotland slopes. The car park is set at the bottom of the runs and a road runs through the middle of the complex.
We found the slopes to be very slushy and icy with the beginner slope having the worst conditions of all. Trying to steer yourself around a patch of black ice when you can’t steer is near on impossible. Not only that but for the morning the visibility was poor, the magic carpet wasn’t working and the beginner slope was super busy. Despite all of this I managed to vastly improve my skills and by the time we went off for lunch I could successfully go down the slope doing falling leaf on my toe and heel edge.
After lunch the visibility improved drastically and they opened the chairlift. Now I had never been on a chairlift before so was super excited about going for a ride. Little had I realised I actually had to get off the thing and then successfully get down the mountain. My chairlift wasn’t so enjoyable once I realised what lie ahead of me. Somehow I managed both and left Lecht that day full of confidence.
Although I said Lecht was busy it only seemed this way because the beginner slope was small and everyone happened to be in the same space at the same time. On the whole Lecht was very quiet which allowed me to gain confidence and go down bigger runs without fearing of getting in everyone’s way. However because the runs were short and narrow I couldn’t practice linking my turns very well nor could I really get in to the run before it was over.
We finally made it to the Cairngorm Mountain on Sunday, ascending up the side of the mountain before making it to the car park – it was already totally different to Lecht. The views from the carpark were incredible both looking down and up, at this point we still had a way to go to reach the top of the runs. Getting kitted up here was a lot more formal and the gear felt a lot better than that at Lecht. The prices were higher but then you get what you pay for…. Here we experienced much better snow, wider and longer runs with much more open. Without any practice we headed straight up on the train for a green run – I just prayed I could remember everything I had taught myself yesterday. Luckily I had remembered everything and the day went by without any accidents which if you read about my New Zealand experience is a bit of a miracle.
I absolutely love the Cairngorm Mountain, the longer and wider runs suited me so much better. It meant no matter how slow I went there was space for the speed demons to go past me. I could quite happily take myself down the mountain and spend most of the time on my own, just how I liked it! The width of the runs meant I could practice linking my turns together and because the runs lasted much longer than Lecht I really had a chance to get in to it.
Cairngorm certainly seemed liked one of the better ranges in Scotland with three different food stops (top, middle and lower mountain), a wide range of runs and full working equipment.
If you live in a main city of Scotland ie Glasgow or Edinburgh then you have plenty of ski slopes within a 3 hour driving distance making heading there for the weekend an easy option. If you happen to live in Aberdeen or Inverness then your even closer to the snow. However even if you don’t live in Scotland flights are so cheap across the UK these days, that a Scottish skiing session will cost you significantly less than going to Europe.
Not only is it cheaper to get to a Scottish ski slope but once you get there everything else is cheaper. Accommodation is probably going to be the next biggest saver. Most Scottish ski places have accommodation with in close surrounding of the mountain but not actually on the mountain. Equipment hire and lift passes are much less than in the big commercial sites of Europe too. Even throughout Scotland you will find a price difference, as I explain above with Lecht and Cairngorm.
Great For Beginners
Before I went snowboarding in Scotland I had, had a two hour lesson on the Cardrona slopes in NZ. I barely knew the basics yet because the slopes were fairly quiet and many others around me were also beginners it gave me the confidence to get going down the slopes. I had space and time to practice on the first day before just enjoying myself on the second day with my new found confidence. Being the level I was before my Scotland weekend it would have felt like a waste of money if I’d have booked a Europe ski week only to find I really didn’t like it. Scotland gives you a chance to ‘try it out’ on real snow – before actually heading to Europe, Canada or New Zealand for the real deal.
If Scotland hadn’t of been accessible, affordable and great for beginners I would never have gotten snowboarding this year let alone improved my skills so much that I already want to go again! The weather and snow conditions may not be Europe or Canada but it was still snowboarding and it was still fun without breaking the bank.