SCOTLAND’S ski centres are stepping up their challenge against Europe’s top resorts after a £5.5 million cash boost announced yesterday.
The multi-million pound injection will help modernise some of the ageing infrastructure on the country’s slopes.
The snowsports sector is worth £30m a year to the Scottish rural economy and supports over 600 jobs.
Heather Negus, chair of marketing brand Ski-Scotland, said: “By replacing surface tows with chairlifts and ageing tows and chairlifts with new hardware, our ski areas will be able to offer our customers an experience which is more in line with Alpine and Scandinavian resorts.”
Highland and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and Scottish Enterprise are providing 75 per cent of the funding - with the remainder coming from the ski centres themselves - and the cash will be used to replace and improve chairlifts and upgrade tow lifts.
They hope to attract snow-sports enthusiasts who currently take advantage of slopes across Europe.
Mark McMullen, of Scottish Enterprise, said the investment plays directly into Scotland’s tourism strategy which is seeing a growth in adventure tourism.
He added: “It will help further develop Scotland’s snowsports experience by opening up higher-altitude snowfields and will undoubtedly help retain domestic skiers on Scotland’s slopes whilst hopefully encouraging more international snowsport enthusiasts to sample what Scotland has to offer.”
Enterprise and tourism minister Fergus Ewing made the cash announcement on a visit to the Glenshee Ski Centre yesterday.
He said: “The snowsports sector is very important for Scotland’s rural economy.
“Our ski centres bring many tourists to Scotland and this considerable investment from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise, who have worked together with the centres to identify their needs, will provide the necessary support to ensure the sector’s viability.
“The outdoors is the number-one reason people visit Scotland and for every £1 spent on the hills, an additional £4 is spent in the surrounding areas which provide vital income in many rural areas. The most recent full ski season in Scotland saw over 235,000 skier-days recorded.”
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) is investing £2.273m - £342,000 to support the upgrade of ageing assets at the Lecht in the Eastern Cairngorms, £1.4m for Glencoe and £531,000 for Nevis Range.
Scottish Enterprise is providing a £1.86m grant to upgrade ski-tow facilities at Glenshee in Aberdeenshire.
Charlotte Wright, HIE business and sector development director, said the centres are hugely important to Scotland, and particularly the Highlands.
She added: “The sector has tremendous potential for further growth and the companies operating these centres have the ambition to pursue that potential.
“Our role is to help them do that for the benefit of the region’s and the country’s economy. The investment will allow the businesses to attract more visitors and offer a better experience with enhanced facilities.”
Glencoe Mountain Resort boss Andy Meldrum said: “As the country’s oldest ski centre, this much-needed support will allow us to upgrade and replace lift infrastructure to not only improve customer experience but also safeguard jobs.”
Graham McCabe, managing director at Glenshee, said: “The new lifts will further develop Glenshee’s snowsports experience, and will undoubtedly help retain domestic skiers on Scotland’s slopes whilst hopefully encouraging more international snowsport enthusiasts to sample what Scottish skiing offers.”
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