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 and a rope tow. From here, once you’ve mastered the basics, it’s not too far, via the Baddock Chairlift, to the greens of Claybokie, served by the Claybokie Poma, 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.
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.
• Altitude: 650-1,068m/ 2,132-3,504ft
• 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 plenty of ski mountaineering terrain.
• Ski/snowboard hire: Yes, inc online
• Ski/snowboard school: Yes
• Ski clothing hire: Yes
• Shop: Yes
• Artificial slope: No
• Ski guiding: No
• Sledging/other snow fun: Yes
• Terrain/railpark: Railpark with a variety of rails and jumps.
• Webcams: Yes
New for 2013/14
• The kitchen at the Base Cafe has been refurbished, opening things out to improve ease of service.
• New fencing in Coire Fionn and Glas Maol to aid snow retention.
Glenshee Ski Centre, Cairnwell, Braemar, Aberdeenshire, AB35 5XU
• Tel: 01339 741320
• email: email@example.com