Highlands & Islands

Trust leading bid to take over CairnGorm Mountain

CairnGorm Mountain resort Image copyright CairnGorm Mountain
Image caption CairnGorm Mountain is owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise

A trust has been set up to lead a proposed community buyout of the CairnGorm Mountain snowsports centre.

Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust has emerged from a group of local businesses' aspiration to take over a former ski area called the Ciste.

Natural Retreats is more than three years into a 25-year lease to manage the centre on behalf of owners, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

HIE said the trust's planned buyout was still in the early stages.

As well as its ski slopes, CairnGorm Mountains' other assets include a funicular railway connecting the base station with the centre's Ptarmigan Restaurant 1,097m (3,599ft) up Cairn Gorm mountain.

Mike Dearman, director of the Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust, said more should be invested in the resort's snowsports infrastructure.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The site includes a funicular railway

He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Skiing for the last 10 years has been worth around £4.7m spend a year and supported about 50 full-time jobs in the area.

"We would like to see that continue and we think we can improve on that with a positive image for CairnGorm and reverse that decline we've been seeing of the last couple of years."

The trust has proposed investing £3.5m in snow-making technology, a hydro-electric power scheme and a bike park.

Mr Dearman said the trust was confident it could get the required support from the local community for a buyout to progress.

He said: "Aviemore was built on the skiing at CairnGorm. We have that cultural heritage too to protect."

Artificial slopes

HIE said that if a community buyout did happen it would not affect Natural Retreat's lease and it would only mean the company having a new landlord.

Sandra Holmes, head of community assets at the agency, said HIE, in its role supporting community buyouts, was helping the trust to understand the legislation around and process of asset transfers.

She said community ownership bids must show that an asset would be used differently and for the benefit of the public.

Image copyright Natural Retreats
Image caption Natural Retreats has proposed a revamp of the centre in the Cairngorms

The trust is also receiving independent advice from an organisation set up by the Scottish government.

Since taking over as operator, Natural Retreats has proposed a revamp of the site, which includes improvements to the Ptarmigan Restaurant, and adding artificial snowsports areas that would be open all year.

The new areas would include space for beginners and a 90m long (295ft) intermediate slope.

The artificial areas would be constructed near the base station of the CairnGorm Mountain snowsports centre.

Last month, Natural Retreats announced plans to install a snow-making machine.

'Revolutionary technology'

Janette Jansson, general manager of CairnGorm Mountain, said: "Last season at CairnGorm Mountain it was a challenge to open for snowsports as often as we would have liked due to the poor snowfall.

"However, we have worked hard at trying to overcome this challenge and we are now looking to trial revolutionary technology here at CairnGorm Mountain this winter by the temporary installation of a 'snow factory'.

"If successful, it is an investment to be considered that will noticeably enhance the snowsports experience at CairnGorm Mountain."

She added: "We are currently three years into a 25-year operating lease with our landlord, HIE, and are very much focused on fulfilling the first phases of our own business plan to enhance the year-round experience for visitors, including winter snowsports.

"We realise this transformation will be a long-term commitment and we are committed to working with the Cairngorm Estate owner, HIE, to effect this change."

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