New plans unveiled for Cairngorms mountain resort

A 25-year vision that will shape the future of one of Scotland’s most popular mountain adventure destinations has been drawn up.

The intention is to transform the publicly owned Cairngorm Estate, near Aviemore, into “a world-class mountain environment where nature thrives and people of all ages and abilities enjoy access to outdoor sport, recreation and education opportunities in every season of the year”.

The new masterplan includes 10 strategies that will guide development within the 1,418-hectare estate, which is home to Cairngorm Mountain resort.

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The area includes footpaths and trails offering access to wild areas that provide habitat for rare mountain plants and animals, in addition to the well-known snowsports centre and funicular railway.

The Top Station and Ptarmigan restaurant at Cairngorm Mountain snowsports resort. Picture: Tim Winterburn/HIE

Sustainability and low environmental impacts are at the heart of the masterplan, which sets out aims to restore local nature and offer a range of high-quality visitor experiences such as skiing, mountain biking and hiking all year round.

Other areas of focus include sustainable transport, relocating the snow factory and electrifying snow cannons to provide the white stuff when it’s thin on the ground, and developing facilities such as a new chairlift in Coire Cas.

The beleaguered funicular railway will also be upgraded.

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A new 25-year vision for the Cairngorm mountain resort has been set out, with key objectives including safeguarding the natural environment and sustainable year-round operations

The plan has been published by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which owns the site, and comes following widespread consultation with local community and business groups, public bodies and sporting and nature conservation organisations.

It will act as a framework to help inform future development and support delivery of the key objectives.

Dave MacLeod, HIE’s head of property and infrastructure, said the agency’s ultimate aim was to unlock Cairngorm’s full potential as both an environmental and economic asset for the area.

He said: “This masterplan is a really important tool to guide the development of lots of individual plans that will come forward in future.

“Its impact will be felt for at least a generation and we really want to thank everyone who took the time to engage with us and share their knowledge, experience and ideas.”

He said the consultation had demonstrated that some plans could be quite polarising.

“Other aspects are more likely to win almost universal support, such as environmental protection and enhancement, decarbonisation, the quality of the visitor experience, improved accessibility and a sustainable operating model that benefits the local economy throughout the year, he added.”

Scottish tourism minister Ivan McKee said: “The publication of the masterplan is an important step in defining the vision for the Cairngorm Estate over the next 25 years and follows extensive engagement with a wide range of stakeholders in the area.

“The long term sustainability of the estate and its role in supporting the local community, the rural economy, snowsports and the wider tourism industry is a priority for the Scottish Government.

“The masterplan will enable work to continue on more detailed plans to maximise its potential for present and future generations whilst protecting the mountain environment.”

Early priorities for HIE over the next two years include stabilising the present operating company, Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd, and reviewing options for future ownership and operating models.

The agency’s decision to reinstate the beleaguered funicular railway, which is due to come back into service this winter after completion of strengthening works, was taken while the masterplan consultation was in progress.

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