SMALL but perfectly formed, the Lecht has everything you’d expect at a much larger resort and then some. Serious sport skiers will be delighted to find a race piste with timing and slalom poles, freestylers are catered for with a park when conditions allow and beginners have the luxury of a travelator – dubbed the Magic Carpet – for getting back up to the top of the nursery slopes.
The Lecht is also home to an extensive snowmaking set-up: raised cannons are dedicated to the lower slopes and a mobile system covers most of the other runs. As long as it is cold enough they can pump out fresh snow.
Situated on the A939 just south of Tomintoul in the Eastern Cairngorms the Lecht can be accessed from Aviemore and Granton to the north as well as Aberdeen and Ballater to the south.
The ski area is divided into two main sections, one on each side of the road. On the east side, the Buzzard Poma gives access to a blue run, a couple of reds and – after a good snowfall – plenty of off-piste options in between. On the west side there is terrain to suit all abilities, from the nursery slopes covered by the magic carpet and several drag tows to easy-angled blues and reds which are ideal for early intermediates who are still finding their feet. There is also a steeper area for more advanced skiers and boarders accessed via a three-man chairlift as well the Falcon and Harrier tows leading to the steep race training runs.
Conveniently, the day lodge houses all the usual facilities under one roof, including a large self-service café, upstairs bar overlooking the slopes, ticket office, hire department, shop and ski school. There’s a tubing run, too, situated next to the Magic Carpet lift, so you and your giant inflatable doughnut can travel up the hill in style before coming careering down it again, more than likely screaming your head off and completely out of control.
The Lecht is a great place to learn and progress. There’s a large beginner area right in front of the Day Lodge with five green-graded runs, and, of course, the aforementioned Magic Carpet for those still struggling with surface tows. For skiers and boarders growing in confidence, there are also lots of forgiving blues to choose from.
With seven blues and five reds, there’s plenty to keep cruisers and speed-demons entertained. The Lecht is a good place for cautiously upping your game, too: the fact that the terrain on the west side of the road gets gradually steeper as you move towards the race piste end means you can take a good long look at the next steepest run to the one you’re on before actually committing to it.
Whether you’re a serious racer or just curious to know how fast you can go, the homologated race piste is a great facility. Freestylers are well catered for too: there’s a rail park at the top of the Snowy Owl Chairlift, and when conditions allow, the Lecht team build a fun park beside the Harrier tow. When it really snows hard they even have the option of creating a halfpipe, thanks to an on-site pipe-cutter. Ski tourers and backcountry enthusiasts, meanwhile, will be drawn to the interesting mixture of terrain that lies just outside the ski area boundary.
The upstairs bar in the Day Lodge is usually open until late during the winter and is an ideal place to relax after an exhausting day on the slopes. Alternatively there are bars at the Allargue at the bottom of the Lecht hill, the Glenavon Hotel and the Richmond Hotel in nearby Tomintoul, the Colquhonnie Hotel in Strathdon, as well as a number of good places to eat and drink a little further away in Ballater.
Pisted runs: 20km/12½ miles
Longest run: 900m/2,953ft
Max vertical descent: 200m/700ft
Number of lifts: 12 – 1 Chair, 8 Pomas, 2 rope tows, 1 travelator
Number of runs: 18 (5 green, 9 blue, 5 red, 1 black)
Uplift capacity: 9,500 per hour
Snowmaking: Yes, extensive mobile system (6 cannons)
Cafes/restaurants: 2 at Day Lodge
Off piste: Yes, 1.25 sq km/½ sq mile
Ski/snowboard school: Yes
Ski/snowboard hire: Yes, inc online booking
Ski/snowboard clothing hire: Yes (to be booked by phone)
Artificial slope: No
Ski guiding: No
Sledging/other snow fun: Yes – also tubing
Terrain park: Yes, one built into hill, another built when snow permits: 5 rails, 1 table top, 2 large jumps. Also on-site halfpipe cutter.
New for 2012/13
New rails have been built for the terrain parks and The Lecht now has green power in the shape of a wind turbine to help power the ski area.