COMPLETED in 1989, Nevis Range is the newest of Scotland’s outdoor ski resorts and boasts the country’s only gondola system, which whisks skiers and boarders to a height of 650m in just 12 minutes. It’s also the highest resort in Scotland, its Summit Run sitting just below the 1,221m peak of Aonach Mor.
On leaving the gondola, you have three main areas of the mountain to choose from. Turn left and you’ll come to a beginners area marked on the map as Zone B – a network of mostly green and a few blue runs served by a series of drag lifts and the Great Glen Chair. Turn right and take a short walk to the Quad Chair, then cut across the top of Allt Sneachda and jump on the Goose Chair and you’ll come out at the top of the Goose, Nevis Range’s signature red run, with various other reds branching off it to left and right.
Make your way from the top of the Goose Chair to the Summit Button, meanwhile, and you’ll arrive at the advanced area of the mountain, with the Summit Terrain Park running back down the front side of the hill along the line of the tow, and the unpisted steeps of the Back Corries just a short walk away.
The good news is beginners get the whole of Zone B pretty much to themselves. One of the scariest things about learning is having expert skiers flying past you at speed as you’re trying to master snowplow turns, but most of the speed demons returning to the Gondola Station from the Goose will be far away on the other side of the mountain. With little in the way of through traffic and eight green runs and five blues to choose from, this is a great place to learn the basics. Better still, most of the runs in Zone B seem to end up back at the Snowgoose Restaurant, so you’re never more than a few minutes away from your next soothing hot chocolate.
The Goose is a great place to pick up some serious speed, and thanks to its gentle bowl shape it holds snow better than anywhere else on the mountain. If you’re in the mood for something a little more mellow, use the Quad Chair to access the rolling blues of Far West, Easy Rider, Allt Sneachda and the Fairway.
Advanced skiers and boarders rave about Nevis Range, and for good reason. There may not be anything too testing on the front side of the mountain, but take a five-minute stroll from the top of the Summit Button and you’ll find yourself looking down the steep sides of Coire Dubh into the area of the mountain known as the Back Corries. The off-piste itineraires dropping off the side of the aptly named Lemming Ridge offer a serious challenge, and should only be attempted after checking conditions at the ski patrol hut at the top of the Summit Button tow. To allow advanced skiers and boarders to get the most out of this side of the mountain, Nevis Range runs a series of Back Corries workshops throughout the winter. There is also a transceiver park in Zone B where aspiring backcountry explorers can practise their search and rescue skills.
Situated at the base of the gondola, the Pinemarten cafe bar opened its doors early April 2011. The beef and venison burgers will satisfy even the biggest appetites, and the bar serves a selection of local ales. In nearby Fort William, the Grog and Gruel Alehouse and the Ben Nevis Bar are both popular with skiers and boarders.
Pisted runs: 20km/12½ miles
Longest run: 2km/1¼ miles; 4km/2½ miles unpisted
Max vertical descent: 550m/1,804ft
Number of lifts: 12 – 1 gondola, 3 chairs, 4 buttons, 1 rope tow, 3 T-bars
Number of runs: 35 (6 green, 13 blue, 11 red, 5 black)
Uplift capacity: 9,600 per hour
Cafes/restaurants: One (new) at base. Two on mountain
Off piste: Yes, approx. 4sq km/1½sq miles. Ski/snowboard school: Yes
Ski/snowboard hire: Yes, inc online
Ski/snowboard clothing hire: Yes
Artificial slope: Yes
Ski guiding: Yes
Sledging/other snow fun: Yes, conditions permitting. Also snowshoeing and snowbiking
Terrain park: As soon as snow allows. Includes rainbow rails, kickers, roller, s-rails, table top etc
NEW FOR 2012/13
After last year’s storm damage, quad chair has had a £100,000+ refurbishment.
Address: Torlundy, Fort William, Inverness-shire, PH33 6SQ
Tel: 01397 705 825