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IT CALLS for stamina, skill and an icy psychological strength to go onto the Scottish mountains in winter. The conditions you can experience, ranging from blown ice, to atrocious whiteout conditions are best described as arctic, or perhaps something ruder.
THE figures for hill walking and outdoor activities in Scotland are impressive. As John Cousins, secretary of the UK Mountain Training Board, observes, while the newspaper headlines are full of tales of the declining health of the Scottish public, the nation’s taste for the great outdoors is increasing all the time.
CROSS-COUNTRY skiing and eventing may be a sport more associated with the Nordic countries than Scotland, but as Dave Felce, one of the organisers of the Braemar Telemark Festival, observes, it is growing in popularity all the time. "Telemarking" is another name for cross-country skiing.
WHATEVER sport you are interested in, remember to keep calm and careful, and certainly prepare well and approach the Scottish mountains with the utmost respect.
STRANGE but true: Scotland is a paradise for extreme watersports. The serious season actually starts in autumn, when good winds and big surf brings the sea dramatically to life. So whet your appetite and dive into what’s happening near, on and even under water.
SKIING has a particular thrill of speed and exhilaration, which has always appealed and appalled in equal measure. Being in full flight down the fall line (ie straight down) of a mountain is a wonderful feeling.
WHEN winter hill "scramblers" come across snowy slopes they have to traverse, the tools they look to first and foremost are their crampons - steel claws on their boots - and the multi-purpose ice axe.
ONE of the more depressing facts about life in modern Scotland is that we appear to be in danger of turning into an overweight nation of couch potatoes. Yet the cure is right on our doorsteps.
PHYSICAL fitness is helpful if you are going winter mountaineering, or skiing although Stewart Johnson, who runs Mountain Safety Training Clinics with Tiso’s in Glasgow and Edinburgh, says : "A high level of fitness is not required to participate in winter mountaineering. It’s not a prime safety consideration. But, if you are not fit, you can’t go so far."
ANYONE spending any time outdoors in Scotland will not need to be told that the weather can change from hour to hour, even in mid-summer. Moreover, as many a hill walker has found to their cost, what may seem like a pleasant breeze in the car park can swiftly turn into a bitingly cold blast on the exposed hillside.
MY PERSONAL best new gizmo for the snowboarding season has to the Ranger Glove £50 from Dakine, with a windscreen wiper blade on the right thumb and a chamois on the left to keep your goggles in good shape.
FOR those who don’t fancy being outdoors when the snow is driving horizontally over the ground, Scotland’s indoor climbing centres offer a warm, dry alternative with enough variation to challenge everyone from the beginner to the expert.
SOONER or later the winter sport expert finds themselves longing to get away from the confines of the ski areas. Everywhere in Scotland you get views of hundreds more mountains, all with their unique snow conditions and remarkable scenery.
ONE of the great joys of the Scottish mountains is that most Scots do not have to drive any great distance to get to a world class hill walking or mountain sports area. However, those that plan to make a holiday of it and want to stop over have an extraordinarily wide choice of accommodation.