Snowploughs battle 14ft high snowdrifts to reopen mountain road after its longest and most frequent closure for decades

Workers have re-opened Scotland’s most snow-prone road today after being shut for three weeks in the latest of its “exceptionally” frequent closures this winter.

Snowdrifts up to 14ft high have been encountered at the Lecht. Picture: Aberdeenshire Council
Snowdrifts up to 14ft high have been encountered at the Lecht. Picture: Aberdeenshire Council

Aberdeenshire and Moray councils’ staff finally cleared the A939 for traffic between Cockbridge and Tomintoul to reopen the snow gates on Thursday for the first time since January 28.

It follows the nearby A93 being re-opened on Wednesday between Braemar and the Glenshee snow sports centre after a two-week snow closure which involved clearing avalanches.

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Aberdeenshire Council said the A939, which passes the Lecht snow sports centre, had already been shut nine times this winter – around twice as often as the average for the entire season.

A spokesperson said: “The winters of 2009-10 and 2010-11 were also very severe and prolonged, but the snow gates were never closed for such a long time as this year.

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"In addition to this latest closure, this winter season has seen around nine separate closures of the snow gates.

“The road has only been open for around nine days since January 7.

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The A939 is still being cleared at the Lecht. Picture: Aberdeenshire Council

"In an average winter, you may see only five or six snow gate closures in a season, and these are often just overnight to protect the public, so this winter has been exceptional.”

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The spokesperson said the drifts had been up to 14ft deep.

"Various attempts were made with snow ploughs, snow blowers and excavators to reopen the road.

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"However, further frequent snowfalls and increasing wind speeds leading to drifting meant operations would have been fruitless or potentially unsafe, and a decision was taken last week not to wait until conditions improved.”

Snow clearance at the Lecht. Picture: Aberdeenshire Council
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The council spokesperson said the A93 had been re-opened on Wednesday after being closed since February 2 following extensive work including clearing of avalanche debris.

They said: “Aberdeenshire Council has been working closely with our colleagues in both Moray Council to the north and Perth and Kinross Council to the south to get these two roads reopened as quickly as possible.”

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The spokesperson said its contractors and farmers had been helping with the snow-clearing effort.

The A939 snow gates near Tomintoul which have been closed since January 28. Picture: Moray Council
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Snow sports centres such as the Lecht and Glenshee have reported some of the best snow conditions for many years, but they have been forced to remain closed because of the Covid restrictions.

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A Moray Council snowplough in action. Picture: Moray Council

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