Trust appointed to lead ailing CairnGorm snow centre buyout

A propoosed community buyout of a Highlands snowsports centre is a step closer, with a trust set up to lead the purchase.

A community trust wants to buy the CairnGorm Mountain snowsports centre.

Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust has emerged from the aspiration of a group of local businesses to take over the CairnGorm Mountain snowsports centre.

The ski area, previously called the Ciste, is owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE).

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HIE said the trust’s planned buyout was still in the early stages.

As well as its ski slopes, CairnGorm Mountains’ other assets include a funicular railway connecting the base station with the centre’s Ptarmigan Restaurant, which is 3,599ft up Cairn Gorm mountain.

Mike Dearman, director of the Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust, said more should be invested in the resort’s snowsports infrastructure.

He told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Skiing for the last 10 years has been worth around £4.7 million spend a year and supported about 50 full-time jobs in the area.

“We would like to see that continue and we think we can improve on that with a positive image for CairnGorm and reverse that decline we’ve been seeing of the last couple of years.”

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Under the trust’s mooted move, a total of £3.5m would be invested in snow-making technology. A hydro-electric power scheme and a bike park would also be built.

Mr Dearman said the trust was confident it could get the required support from the local community for a buyout to progress.

He said: “Aviemore was built on the skiing at CairnGorm. We have that cultural heritage too to protect.”

HIE has declared that if a community buyout did happen it would not affect Natural Retreat’s lease and it would only mean the company having a new landlord.

Natural Retreats, which started a 25-year lease for the site and its railway in June 2014, had consulted staff on potential job losses at the site earlier this year.

The firm said at the time the latest ski season has been “challenging” and “poor” and this had affected revenue.

Winter revenue was crucial to sustaining the operation of the centre during summer, Natural Retreats had said.

The company operates three attractions in Scotland; CairnGorm Mountain, John O’Groats and Lews Castle.