SPREAD over 2,000 acres and spanning three different valleys, Glenshee is the largest ski area in Scotland. As you’d expect, all that acreage translates into plenty of piste – 40km or 25 miles of it, to be precise – and plenty of variety, too, with a good mix of greens, blues and reds in addition to a couple of testing blacks, a terrain park and lots of off-piste options to keep the experts happy.
The ski area is split in two by the A93 from Perth to Aberdeen. To the west of the road are the gentle blues and greens of Butchart’s Coire and also the steeper runs of the Cairnwell (933m/3,061ft), notably the formidable Tiger. To the east of the road, meanwhile, you can access a whole wealth of terrain via a network of surface lifts, which take you up and down the sides of a series of ridges. Take one of the Sunnyside Pomas (or the Sunnyside Chairlift) to the top of the first ridge, and you have the option of either skiing back down to the car park or dropping down to the next set of tows, which take you up to another ridge beneath Meall Odhar (922m/3,024ft).
From here, you can take one of three reds back to the car park or keep going east and drop down into another valley, beneath the mighty bulk of Glas Maol. To reach the easternmost extent of the ski area – and some of the best freeride terrain in Scotland – take the Glas Maol Poma to just below the mountain’s 1068m/3,503ft peak, traverse around the edge of the Glas Choire and pick the most inviting-looking line.
Absolute beginners will be delighted to find a large nursery area easily accessible at car park level, served by the Dink-Dink Poma. From here, once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s not too far to the greens served by the Claybokie Poma on the west side of the road or the greens on Sunnyside. You’re also handy for the Base Cafe, serving soup, traditional pies and home baking, and the Cairnwell Cafe, with its panoramic views and substantial lunches.
Thanks to its sheer size, and the way its runs and lifts dip in and out of different valleys, you really get the feeling you’re covering a lot of ground when you ski Glenshee. If you’re comfortable on blue runs, you’ll be able to get around most of the resort area without having to tackle anything too tricky, and if you can ski reds you’re in for a treat, whether you’re looking to practise slalom skills in the race track area or play in the natural halfpipe of Meall Odhar.
Mogul-lovers looking to give their knees a workout need look no further than the infamous Tiger, served by the Cairnwell Chairlift. The only other black run, on the left hand side of Glas Maol as you look at it from the bottom of the Glas Maol Poma, is as good a place as any to feel the Gs – in 1985, it was the venue for the Smirnoff British Speed Skiing Championships. Apart from a couple of reds, there are no other marked runs in this area, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing else to ski – quite the opposite. After a big dump of snow, this is a great place to find fresh tracks. Just take the long, winding traverse from the top of the Glas Maol Poma and see the possibilities open up beneath you. A terrain park is usually built beside Butcharts T-bar as soon as there is enough snow, and backcountry enthusiasts have been known to pass out with joy on seeing the view from the top of Glas Maol.
You’re spoilt for choice. Nearby eating and drinking options include Dalmunzie House Hotel and the Spittal of Glenshee Hotel. If you’re heading north up the A93, stop in Braemar and check out Braemar Lodge (and its Malt Lounge) or the Fife Arms Hotel; if you’re heading south, stop in Blairgowrie and visit the Bridge of Cally Hotel or the Strathardle Inn – both warm and atmospheric with good food.
Pisted runs: 40km/25 miles
Longest run: 2km/1¼ miles
Max vertical descent: 418m/1,371ft
Number of lifts: 23 including 3 chairs
Number of runs: 36 (8 green, 13 blue, 13 red, 2 black)
Uplift capacity: 15,460 per hour
Snowmaking: Yes, 7 cannons
Cafes/restaurants: 1 at base, 2 on mountain
Off-piste skiing: Yes. Not a huge area within the resort boundary, but the lift system also gives access to vast ski mountaineering terrain.
Ski/snowboard hire: Yes, including online booking
Ski/snowboard school: Yes
Ski clothing hire: Yes
Artificial slope: No
Ski guiding: No
Sledging/other snow fun: Yes
Terrain/railpark: Railpark (new for 2011) with a variety of rails and jumps.
New for 2012/13
Following major investment in new equipment and chairlift for last winter, there has been further investment in new snow fencing to aid retention of snow on the pistes and an extensive maintenance programme in preparation for the new winter season.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 20 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 18 C
Wind Speed: 10 mph
Wind direction: North west