George Stewart, still sliding at the age of 98

A salute to George Stewart, Scotland’s oldest skier

We are all, apparently, in spite of the stresses of Brexit and the proliferation of Krispy Kreme outlets, living longer than ever before. According to the Office for National Statistics, by the year 2066, 50 per cent of newborn girls and 44.2 per cent of newborn boys should make it to 100. A few months ago, as if to prove the point, a book landed on my desk entitled The 100-Year Life: Living and Working in an Age of Longevity. The premise was that these days, thanks to healthier diets and better medical care and a general lack of natural predators, we should all now be planning to live to 100, as, for the first time in history, there’s a decent chance we might actually get there. Of course, for many people (read: anyone without several million quid in the bank) such planning will mostly be of a financial nature, and that seemed to be the main thrust of the book. “Does the thought of working for 60 or 70 years fill you with dread?” ran the blurb. Why yes, I thought, eyeing my “to do” list for the day, it does. But if “the 100-Year Life” really is going to become as commonplace as the ONS number-crunchers predict, there are other things to think about too, in particular: what will I do for fun when I hit 80, 90, 100, even perhaps 110?

The North Face of Ben Nevis. The second title published by Cicerone in 1969 was the successful Winter Climbs: Ben Nevis and Glencoe by Ian Clough.

Guide book publishers Cicerone celebrate 50 years of hiking, biking, skiing and climbing

In March 1969, a new publisher called Cicerone, based in the north of England, brought out its first ever guidebook: The Northern Lake District, written by Arthur Hassall. It consisted of just 40 pages, and featured hand-drawn-illustrations, yet it was from this small seed that a very considerable publishing empire would sprout. Now, half a century on, Cicerone has around 400 titles in print, most of them guidebooks for outdoor enthusiasts looking to hike, climb, ski and cycle in wild (and not so wild) locations right across the globe. There will be events to mark the anniversary throughout the year, but first comes a new book, Cicerone: Celebrating Fifty Years of Adventure, edited by Kev Reynolds and with contributions from a whole host of Cicerone authors, which tells the very British story of how the company grew from a passion project started by two remarkable couples into a world-renowned provider of essential adventure travel information.

The Ciste Gully at CairnGorm Mountain on Easter Sunday 2018, about as good as it gets PIC: Stevie McKenna

The pros and cons of CairnGorm Mountain’s £27 million masterplan

I’ve just been watching a very slickly produced short film about the new ten-year, £27 million plan for the CairnGorm Mountain ski area, and – on first viewing, at least – it looks like a skier or snowboarder’s dream come true. If the proposed changes become a reality, two new, super-fast six-man chairlifts will whisk skiers from the current base station to the head of Coire Cas and to a spot at the top of the mountain near the Ptarmigan restaurant, and a number of new pistes will be carved out of the mountainside to link the new lifts to the rest of the resort. The place will be an adrenaline junkie’s paradise in the summer too: newly crafted mountain bike tracks will wind their way down the ridgeline currently occupied by the M2 piste, a zip-wire will zig-zag its way from one side of Coire Cas to another and there will even be a rollercoaster (yes, a rollercoaster!) rumbling down what is now the Day Lodge piste.

Could skiing on Lowther Hill one day feel a bit like skiing in Colorado?

Scottish ski centre plans to introduce tree skiing (and snowboarding)

Scotland’s ski resorts may be smaller than those in the Alps and the Rockies, but they offer most of the same basic ingredients: lifts to get you up the mountain, pistes to slide around on and somewhere warm and dry to enjoy a medicinal drink afterwards. Everything else, as they say, is details. There is one thing they don’t offer, however, something which is freely available in most of the rest of the skiing universe, and that’s tree skiing.

The Ciste Gully at CairnGorm Mountain, Easter 2018. PIC: Stevie McKenna / ski-scotland

The CairnGorm funicular crisis: trying to look on the bright side

Things are looking a bit bleak up at CairnGorm Mountain, and no, I’m not talking about the weather. However, Final Words is a glass half-full kind of column, so this week I’ll be examining some of the ways in which the ski centre’s current travails might turn out to be good news, both in the short term and in the long run. First though, a brief recap of the bad news, just in case you’ve missed it.

Rob Machado in a still from Momentum Generation, directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist

“We laughed, we cried” - surf star Rob Machado on the film that reunited the Momentum Generation

In the early 1990s, surfing underwent a seismic cultural shift. Just as soft rock bands were made to look like dinosaurs almost overnight by the emergence of grunge, so the muscle-bound power surfers who had dominated the sport in the late 1980s suddenly began to look like lumbering prehistoric beasts next to a new generation of nimble young acrobats – surfers who seemed to be able to conjure speed out of nowhere, and who tended to see the lip of a wave as a launchpad rather than simply something to smack as hard as you could with the tail of your board (although they could do that, too). The vanguard of this new crew included Kelly Slater, Rob Machado, Shane Dorian, Taylor Knox, Pat O’Connell, Kalani Robb, Benji Weatherley and Ross Williams, and the remarkable story of their meteoric rise to the top of the surfing totem and its aftermath is told in a new film, Momentum Generation, released this week by Universal.

Ines Papert climbing The Hurting PIC: Nadir Khan

Extreme sports photographer Nadir Khan on the risks and rewards of working in Scotland

In almost a decade of writing about Scotland’s outdoors folk in this column, I’ve been on the receiving end of a perpetual avalanche of remarkable photography. It’s hard to think, though, of more than a handful of people who have captured the drama of extreme sports with the precision and panache of Nadir Khan. His new book, Extreme Scotland – A Photographic Journey Through Scottish Adventure Sports, features everything from mountain biking and trail running to kayaking and surfing. It’s the climbing and skiing images, though, which really stand out – moments of fleeting perfection snatched from the jaws of a notoriously unforgiving mountain environment.

The CairnGorm funicular, taking passengers above the snowline PIC: Ian Rutherford for The Scotsman

What a winter without the funicular could mean for CairnGorm Mountain ski area

Earlier this month it emerged that the funicular railway that serves the CairnGorm Mountain ski area would have to be closed for “several weeks” after a routine inspection revealed problems with the structures that support the track. Specialist engineers have been called in to check the foundations, and they are expected to report back in November on the extent of the repair work that needs to be carried out. Given that CairnGorm often has enough snow on its upper slopes to open for skiing in early December, however, it’s clear that if anything other than very minor tweaks are required in order to make the funicular safe it probably won’t be up and running again in time for the start of the new season, and Natural Retreats, the company that runs the ski area, recently announced that it was preparing for a winter without the train.

The Lecht in February 2018 PIC: Stevie McKenna

Interview: The Lecht’s James McIntosh looks forward to a winter of guaranteed snow

At about this time of year, skiers and snowboarders all over the Northern Hemisphere start obsessing about whether the coming season is shaping up to be good, bad or ugly; and the only people keeping an even closer eye on long-range weather forecasts are the folks who run the ski resorts. For them, snow really is a serious business: a year of plentiful snowfall can bring in enough cash to pay for new equipment and infrastructure, while a terrible year can harm not just the resort itself but also the nearby communities that depend on it.

Load more
Get daily updates Sign Up X