The ski lifts weren’t running at CairnGorm Mountain yesterday – the official opening is today – but a handful of skiers and boarders were so keen to get their first turns of the season they slogged to the top of the ski area under their own steam.
By 11am, a line of tiny black dots could be seen from the Funicular Base Station, inching slowly up the hill. It was a sweaty, hour-long pilgrimage, but the rewards were worth it.
CairnGorm has been blessed with significant early-season snowfalls and several days of sub-zero temperatures, so the snow has remained light and fluffy, rather than falling victim to freeze-thaw cycles and turning to ice.
The cold has also allowed the resort’s operations manager Colin Matthew to run his new TechnoAlpin snow guns for several days, filling in some of the lower slopes where the cover might otherwise have been too thin. The result? Top-to-bottom skiing, at a time of year when skiers and boarders are usually confined to the upper reaches of the mountain.
Conditions were best higher up, on the Ciste Fairway and the Traverse, but the 105 and Zig Zags were also in good nick, with soft, forgiving snow. Even in high season, it sometimes isn’t possible to ski from the Funicular Mid Station back to the car park, but Home Road was passable almost all the way to the bottom.
As darkness fell, it started snowing again – not heavily, but every little helps.