Snowfalls bring hope to Scottish skiing industry

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The Independent Online

Scottish ski resorts are preparing for a rush of thrill-seekers to arrive on their slopes today after a week of blustery and snowy weather has brought some of the finest skiing conditions to the country in more than 10 years.

Heavy snow coupled with 100mph winds earlier in the week brought chaos to many of Scotland's roads but delivered the perfect skiing conditions for the country's five main skiing areas.

Nevis Range, Cairngorm, Glenshee, The Lecht and Glencoe are all reporting superb fresh snow conditions of up to four inches in some places and virtually all of the country's runs are open.

The perfect conditions, which are set to stay good in most places for tomorrow, will be welcome news to Scottish ski resorts which have had to battle their way through a number of poor seasons because of warmer winters and low snowfall.

"Last year was one of the worst ski seasons on record so this is a really welcome development," said Stuart Davidson from the Glenshee Ski Centre, which has had snow on its slopes since it opened last week. "We've had 500 people on the slopes every day this week and today I'd say that we've got about 1,500," he said yesterday. "There are clearly a lot of people who have taken sick days."

Local winter sports enthusiasts could hardly believe their luck when the heavy snow earlier this week was followed by a cold snap and gentler winds that ensured the snow stayed on the slopes.

Heather Negus, from Nevis Range, said its slopes had decent snow cover from the top of the mountain down to the restaurant on the lower slopes. "What really makes this year so special is that we've had an unusually early opening coupled with some of the best snow we've seen in years," she said. "Normally it takes a while for the snow cover to build up, but not this year." Ian Whitaker, the commercial director of Cairngorm Mountain Ltd which runs skiing on the UK's fifth largest mountain, said that the Scottish skiing industry would be celebrating a much-needed boost.

"We've definitely suffered over the past few years," he said. "We've had challenging conditions to deal with, mainly large variation in temperature. Scottish slopes often lose snow pretty quickly after it's fallen and last year we had high winds which blows the snow off the slopes. But when the conditions are right many people say skiing in Scotland can compete with anywhere in the world."

Best resorts and forecasts

* Nevis Range: Range of pistes from beginners to expert run down Aonach Mor mountain, two miles north-east of Ben Nevis. All runs complete. Further four inches of fresh snow overnight with lots of drifting.

* Cairngorm: A ski resort that has been running since the 1950s, Cairngorm is one of the most reliable places to find good snow conditions. Weather on the slopes continues to be excellent with pisted, powdery snow providing great conditions.

* Glenshee: The largest and oldest ski resort in Scotland located in the far north of Perth and Kinross. Fresh snow has improved the runs, most of which now have full cover. There is powdery snow on most runs; a few are thin in places.

* The Lecht: Ski centre on the eastern side of the Cairngorms. Open since the mid 1970s and now has more than 20 runs. Main runs complete with cover of new snow.

* Glencoe: Ski resort based on Meall a Bhuiridh mountain, a 1,108m peak near Glencoe. Great ski conditions. All runs open.