Highlands & Islands

Heavy snowfalls boost winter sports centres

Nevis Range ski patrol on Thursday morning Image copyright Nevis Range Mountain Experience
Image caption Nevis Range ski patrollers enjoying the snowy conditions on Thursday morning

Heavy snowfalls and calm, cold weather have brought a much-needed boost to Scotland's outdoor snowsports centres.

Until now, strong winds and high temperatures had hampered many of the site's efforts to open consistently for skiing, snowboarding and sledging.

All five mountain resorts - The Lecht, Glenshee, Nevis Range, Glencoe and Cairngorm - were open on Thursday.

Lowther Hills Ski Club at Leadhills has also been offering snowsports, including at night under floodlights.

Andrew Meldrum, owner of Glencoe Mountain, said it was hoped there would be enough snow to last until the end of the season.

Scotland's outdoor ski season usually runs from December to early April, depending on snowfall.

Image copyright SAIS Southern Cairngorms
Image caption Glenshee Snowsports Centre on Wednesday

Mr Meldrum said that, until now, the season had been challenging.

He told BBC Radio Scotland: "The main issue until last week was that we got a couple of days with lots of snow and then we had a period of very mild, wet weather and most of the snow disappeared again."

But he said the slopes had been gradually gaining a covering of snow, with depths of 1m (3ft) of snow falling on the highest ground in the area.

"There are probably small amounts forecast to fall over the next five days so we should be in a very, very good condition by the middle of next week," he added.

He said the forecast for this weekend's Storm Dennis was for snow on high ground followed by "a couple of short freezes and thaws". He said this would dampen the snow and stop it from being blown away.

"We've got enough snow to last for quite a while and hopefully until the end of the season," he said.

Image copyright Lowther Hills Ski Club
Image caption Lowther Hills Ski Club offers snowsports under floodlights

Lowther Hills Ski Club, Scotland's southern-most and lowest outdoor ski centre, usually has fewer days of snow than the mountain resorts.

But the centre's Anjo Abelaira said: "We need less snow depth to operate as we have grassy hills and no scree or rocks that need substantial snow depths to cover them.

"Therefore we often can open lifts with just 10cm (4in)."

Mr Aberlaira said that since November the Lowther Hills had 24 days of snow, but only seven were "skiable" with January in particular being mild and windy.

He added: "There are still two months left of winter, as the snow often survives on the hill until April, so business as usual.

"You never know how the winter will turn up to be, every season is different from the previous and - despite best guesses from forecasters- there's no way to know if we'll have a long and white cold spell in March, or perhaps spring will come very early this season.

"Our own target at Lowther Hill is to provide a minimum of 20 days of uplift per season, so we'll keep the ski lifts running as much as the Mother Nature allows."