Toboggan run row costs Hillend ski centre £100k

The toboggan runs are not open. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The toboggan runs are not open. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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A DISPUTE over new toboggan runs created at the redeveloped Hillend ski centre has cost the facility an estimated £100,000.

Four of the 50 metre long tubing runs at Midlothian Snowsports Centre at Hillend have remained shut since the revamped facility was opened in November last year. Children and school groups were the principal target for the slopes, which involve people riding downhill on inflated inner tubes.

However, a dispute with design engineer Curtins Consulting over drainage problems has meant the attraction has not been used for the past eight months.

The drainage issue means the ground underneath the runs becomes too soft after periods of heavy rain.

Closure of the runs has cost Midlothian Council an estimated £100,000 in lost income. The dispute comes with £600,000 having been spent last year to overhaul the dry skiing complex, with a new 210m intermediate slope and 60m of new nursery runs having been built to make the recreational facility profitable.

The council had been losing as much as £500,000 a year on the centre before the revamp.

Neither Curtins Consulting nor the council wants to foot the bill for repair costs on the toboggan slopes. Funds will need to be spent on remedial works once the design problems have been fixed, meaning the closure could drag on for months.

A council spokeswoman confirmed legal advice was being sought in a bid to resolve the dispute, but insisted the centre was still expecting to make a profit this year.

She said: “There have been drainage issues with the tubing runs which we’re currently resolving with the design engineer and the contractor. However, this is a small part of the £600,000 investment we made last year and we’re still open for bookings on our new 210m extended loop and two new nursery slopes as well as an enhanced existing slope.

“When the refurbishment is complete, customers can enjoy four new tubing runs, which will put the Snowsports Centre on the map as one of the best dry slope facilities in Europe.

“The tubing runs are a small part of the core business which remains buoyant and we are not forecasting a loss for the current financial year.”

Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald, who fought against Hillend’s potential closure three years ago, said it was a major waste of the public funding poured into the site if the new facilities were not used.

A total of £533,000 was awarded by Sportscotland towards the centre’s overall revamp. Professional skiers Finlay Mickel and Alain Baxter are among about 30 Olympians who use the international training centre.

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