WINTER sports enthusiasts contributed £30 million to the Scottish economy last year and resorts are hoping that figure will rise as the 2015 season gets underway.
Figures compiled by VisitScotland showed that 13,000 “skier-days” or individual trips to snow sports resorts were made nationwide in 2014, with visitors spending a total of 52,000 nights in the country.
More than 600 jobs are supported by the industry, which is centred around the Highlands and Aberdeenshire.
“Scotland’s ski centres are a huge draw for local residents and snowsports enthusiasts from across the country and further afield,” a VisitScotland spokesperson said.
“Winter sports are an important part of the local and national economy.
“Their impact is felt far beyond the snow-covered hilltops, as visitors who come for the snow also stay for the restaurants and accommodation, which all provides a boost to Scotland’s visitor economy.”
The “Glen of the Fairies” is the UK’s largest winter sports resort, standing at 790 hectares, and is consistently ranked as the most popular ski destination. Last year, approximately 54,000 skiiers and snowboarders used the resort over a period of 51 days. Visitors can choose one of 22 lifts to get to any of the 36 runs open during the season, with nearly 25 miles of pisted snow on offer when conditions are right. Glas Maol is the longest run on offer at Glenshee, winding its way down the mountain for more than 1.2 miles.
The only one of Scotland’s ski resorts in Aberdeenshire, The Lecht is located in the Cairngorms National Park and welcomed 31,780 snow sports enthusiasts in 2014. The Lecht Activity Centre opened in 1977 and features 12 pistes, including nursery slopes for beginners, and a three-person chairlift. 18 runs are accessible here, with 15 lifts used to take riders to the summit.
Scotland’s ski centres are a huge draw for local residents and snowsports enthusiasts from across the country and further afieldVisitScotland spokesperson
A spokesperson from The Lecht said: “We hope to have a busy 2015/16 season, but there’s not enough snow just yet.
“Of course, every year’s different but we opened on December 13 last year. We’d like to be open before Christmas, but it depends on a number of things.
“One of the main issues is keeping the roads open. We rely on the council to help keep them open, but we do help out with clearing them too. We’re smaller than some of the other centres so we tend to attract more beginners, too.”
Experienced riders flock to the country’s oldest ski resort because of the “Flypaper” - one of the UK’s steepest runs. The resort has become famous in recent years for offering an excellent beginner’s area at the top of a large plateau. Scottish Natural Heritage said 114,298 people visited the Glen in 2014. With eight lifts and 20 runs available in season, Glencoe is popular with experienced skiers and snowboarders.
Forever associated with Britain’s tallest peak, the Nevis Range allows skiiers the chance to ride at highs of 3,900ft and also offers a programme of activities including snow biking and sledging. The most recent figures, obtained from a Highlands and Islands Enterprise report, date from 2011 and show a high of 34,652 visitors during the winter season. Nevis Range is home to the Back Corries; one of the most challenging off-piste runs a skiier can face north of the border.
The Cairngorm Mountain features the only funicular railway in Scotland, as well as some of the most technical runs available to snow sports fans. The longest run on offer is just over two miles, with several red, blue and black runs available to non-rookies.