Roger Cox: Omens good for glorious snow

The Cairngorms and Scotland's ski resorts have enjoyed bumper seasons in recent years
The Cairngorms and Scotland's ski resorts have enjoyed bumper seasons in recent years
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A lot of thought goes into the timing of this magazine. The goal is to have it hitting the newsstands just as the first big snows of the winter arrive and the lifts at Scotland’s ski centres start grinding into life.

Trouble is, Mother Nature can be a fickle mistress. Last year we were more or less on the money, publishing just seven days after the resorts opened; this year, though, we were miles out. The Scottish hills had their first significant snowfalls more than a month ago, and CairnGorm opened for business on the second weekend in November. Who could have predicted that?

Still, it would be churlish to complain. Early snow doesn’t necessarily mean we’re in for (yet) another great winter, but it’s a good omen, and at time of going to press the long-range forecasts look promising. By the time you read this, we might already have been plunged into a glorious winter wonderland.

Whatever happens here in Scotland, in February all eyes will be on Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Winter Olympics. The official Team GB selections aren’t due to be made until mid-January, but there are several Scottish skiers and boarders in with a chance of making the cut. In our Perfect Day feature, starting on page 4, these athletes wax lyrical about their most memorable days on home snow. If their reminiscences don’t get you excited to go skiing in Scotland this winter, nothing will.

Cruising around a ski resort with friends or family, it’s easy to forget how much work goes on behind the scenes to facilitate your fun: lifts have to be maintained, pistes have to be pisted, and then, of course, there are the ski patrollers, invisible most of the time yet always on hand in case of an emergency. Last winter, photographer James Robertson shadowed Nevis Range’s head of ski patrol, Jeff Starkey, as he and his team roamed around the hill. His stunning pictures – and Jeff’s myth-busting account of a typical day – begin on page 8.

Elsewhere, we invite a posse of skiers and boarders to test out the latest new season kit (page 12) and delve deep into Scotland’s forgotten skiing past (page 14). Can’t wait to start planning your first ski trip of the year? Then skip straight to our resort guide, starting on page 19.

See you on the hill.