Skiing in Scotland

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Highland Fling

For a month in December and January Britain was gripped by snow and ice. While Gordon Brown fretted about the lost tax earnings as people struggled to make it out to work, panel beaters the length of the country rubbed their hands together. This cold snap had caused enough prangs to keep them in business indefinitely. While the snow has receded in London and the green grass of Hyde Park is visible once more- things up in Scotland just keep getting better.

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The weekend before last, Nic Watkins and Troy Steel made the long drive up from London for a weekend of face shots and Coloradoing in the Scottish Highlands with myself and Ben Thorburn. With temperatures hitting -18°C and 1.5m of fresh it was bound to be epic, especially as we were staying in the luxury of the 4 star Coylumbridge Hilton which was to be our base for the
weekend as we hit up Cairngorm Mountain and the surrounding hills.

Nic Watkins arrives in Scotland
At least the road clearers in Scotland do a pretty good job

On Saturday we awoke to a few inches of fresh and jumped in the car for the short drive up to the mountain. There was a bit of a delay while the road was cleared which Troy took as an opportunity to try out his new sport – Coloradoing, which involves climbing up a pine tree until it bends over at the top and can’t support your weight anymore. Troy was about 20ft up when the first one gave and it was hilarious to watch him get a face full from that height.

Gav on the march

Cairngorm Mountain has some great skiing but the real attraction is the Northern Corries which are normally about a 20 min hike from the top lift. There was so much snow that it must have taken double that to hike to the summit where a 5 min ski would take us to Coire an-t Sneachda, and the first run of the day down a beautiful steep pitch. We struggled for light but had some great runs in great snow before retiring to the sauna, grabbing some dinner and the getting fired into some fine whiskies in true highland style.

Big Mountain - Highland style

Sunday saw us cracking out the BCA Trekkers and skinning up to a peak near Cairngorm. The trees in that area are among the last remnants of the great Caledonian pine forests which covered much of the country a few thousand
years ago. We hit a beautiful steep pitch covered in mature Scots pines that were both grand in bonsai scale and majesty. There was so much snow that I got sloughed off my first line in what are probably the best trees I have ever skied. Scotland is truly on form at the moment. It’s the end of January and I’ve only been out to the Alps for one week because the snow here is so good. The wind has picked up a bit which means that while some aspects are getting scoured, the lee slopes are getting absolutely loaded with the goods.

Gav getting waist deep in the trees

After an epic day of skiing the trees, Nic and Troy (Troy with wet feet having fallen in a stream) jumped back in their car to make the 8 hr drive back to London- Ben and I cruised 30miles down the road to our hometown of Inverness. Its snow like this that keeps us rooted in Scotland, and guess what- yip, its still snowing!

Words: Gavin MacKay
Photos: Ben Thorburn
Video: Run Jump Fly Productions


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