Lack of snow forces Scottish resort into liquidation

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Scotland's oldest ski resort has been hit by its second avalanche of financial problems in less than four years, because there is a shortage of snow.

Liquidators appointed this week at the 494-acre Glencoe Mountain Resort on the Meall A'Bhuiridh massif say their first priority is to safeguard the business for customers.

Climatologists warn that a snow-capped mountain is becoming an increasingly rare sight all around the world. One prediction is that in less than 50 years, snow on a British mountain peak will be so rare that there will be no ski resorts left in the country, except those that use artificial snow. In places such as the Alps, it is expected that skiers will have to climb 5,000 feet above sea level higher than Britain's highest peak to find a reliable ski slope.

At Glencoe, which boasts seven lifts and 19 runs, the problem was so serious that, in 2003, Glenshee Chairlift the company which then owned Glencoe Mountain Resort said it was going to keep it closed all winter, because it could not count on any snow. The announcement provoked a public outcry, and the firm agreed to open the resort for weekend skiing. But the following February, the business went bust, owing more than 1m. The resort was taken over by two Glasgow-based businessmen, David Campbell and Neil Tait, who had plans to expand it by adding a mountain bike track, chalets and a camping facility, so that it could stay open in the summer.

Its nearest rival, the Nevis Range, 35 miles away, had a gondola, and is used for major international mountain biking championships during the summer.

But the new owners' ambitious plans were hit when Christmas 2005 came and went, with no sign of snow. Snow finally fell in the new year, enabling them to open for business on 18 February. Nine months later, there was promise of a better season when the delighted owners saw heavy snow falling, in November. But that was not enough to rescue the venture from its debts. The liquidators, Invocas, say they have "identified an interested party and discussions are at an advanced stage in order to conclude a sale as quickly as possible." A notice on the Glencoe Mountain Resort website yesterday optimistically announced that the resort was open for business and "looking for a great 2007-08 season".

Glencoe's problems are part of a global trend which prompted a warning from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) earlier this year that a rise of 1C in global temperatures could reduce the number of "naturally snow-reliable sites" in Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland from its current level of 609 to 500.

An earlier report from the United Nations Environment Programme warned that in 30 to 50 years, there might be no sites lower than 1,500m (4,900 feet) where skiers could rely on finding snow. Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest peak, is just over 4,400ft high.