To read the e-mag version of Scottish Ski & Board, please click here: https://frontrowmedia.uk/2021/scotlandonsunday/scottishskiandboard0328/
LAST May, during one of the First Minister’s daily coronavirus briefings, Conservative MSP Tom Mason asked Nicola Sturgeon if the list of outdoor activities permitted under newly announced lockdown restrictions would include croquet, as it was a sport in which he had a particular interest. Very few people today would be able to tell you how the First Minister responded (for the record, she was admirably diplomatic as her colleagues chortled away around her). Anyone who saw Janey Godley’s comedy voiceover of that exchange, however, will recall the words she put into the First Minister’s mouth in reply, sadly unpublishable in their entirety, but beginning with an incredulous “Croquet mate?”
Given everything else that was going on at the time, the question of whether or not Tom Mason and his pals would get to play croquet seemed laughably trivial. And, of course, to people with no interest in skiing or snowboarding, the cancellation of all but a few early days of the 2021/22 Scottish ski season must seem of similarly minor importance when set against the enormity of a global pandemic.
Still, for snowsports enthusiasts – particularly those stuck in lockdown many miles from the nearest mountain – the shuttering of ski centres has made a dark winter even darker, not least because, after a few disappointing years, the snow conditions this year were spectacular. If the hills had remained stubbornly brown for much of the time, as they sometimes do, it wouldn’t have been so bad, but watching the snow pile up on resort webcams day after day while not being able to access it was painful.
Resort skiing might have been off the menu, but those lucky enough to live in close proximity to the mountains and prepared do a bit of hiking were free to take advantage of the Alpine conditions; and thanks to February’s Big Freeze, even skiers stuck in the lowlands had the opportunity to get a few turns in too, provided they could find a bit of an incline. To celebrate the snow-sliding that did get done this season, then, we’ve gathered together some of the year’s best off-piste images on pages 4-7. If, like me, you didn’t get anywhere near a mountain this winter, try to see these pictures, not as symbolic of a missed opportunity, but as a reminder of all the great days that lie ahead.
Elsewhere in this year’s supplement, you’ll notice there’s a bit of a backcountry theme. On pages 8-9, four of Snowsport Scotland’s new backcountry ambassadors offer their thoughts on off-piste adventure, while, starting on page 14, steep-skiing expert Scott Muir describes what it’s like to tackle the seldom explored gullies of the Cuillin on Skye. And in a feature starting on page 10, Malcolm Jack travels back in time to 1991, when Cairngorm played host to the UK’s first ever halfpipe snowboard contest.
Of course, the cancellation of this year’s ski season wasn’t just bad news for skiers, but also for the resorts, and for the many other businesses that rely on the winter tourists they attract. The Scottish Government has given the Scottish ski industry a total of £7 million to keep it going, but the 2021/22 season will still be critical. So, if you’ve ever enjoyed a great day at one of Scotland’s ski centres, please consider buying an all-area season pass for next winter. If it’s even half as good as the winter we’ve just had, you’ll be very glad you did. ✱
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