CairnGorm Mountain faces serious challenges

13th November 2018, by Abi Butcher

The ski school, restaurant and funicular at CairnGorm Mountain may remain closed this winter

The ski school, restaurant and funicular at CairnGorm Mountain may remain closed this winter

If £27million was spent on Cairngorm Mountain, the second largest ski resort in Scotland would be “transformed” according to a study by its owner, HIE (Highlands and Islands Enterprise). The resort has been dealt a series of blows in the past weeks following the closure of its main lift due to safety concerns, which has led to the closure of its restaurant, ski school and the loss of many jobs just before the winter 2018/19 season.

The CairnGorm Mountain furnicular is the UK’s highest railway, connecting the base of the ski area with a restaurant set at 1,097m. It cost £19.5m to build, and opened in 2001 and has been used by thousands ever since — including both tourists as well as skiers and snowboarders. But the funicular was closed in October to assess safety concerns and looks likely to remain closed for the forthcoming ski season.

At the end of last month, Aberdeen newspaper The Press & Journal reported that an email had been sent to all ski school staff and restaurant staff informing them that they would not have jobs this season due to the funicular closure — the same day that snow fell for the first time this winter.
The newspaper reports that local councillor Muriel Cockburn said she was “devastated” by the news coming, by email, just two months before Christmas.

While the results of the funicular assessment are still awaited, HIE last week released results of another study calling for investment of £27m to transform CairnGorm Mountain and “unleash” its “unlocked potential”.

HIE’s report — carried out by US consultancy SE Group — suggests that two new chairlifts are built on the mountain to carry 6,200 people per hour out of the base station. The new chairlifts, says the study, would allow for non-skiers to use the funicular. The report also suggests that a mountain coaster ride and zip-line are built to boost the number of visitors, and that lift-served mountain biking is introduced during the summer months.

Charlotte Wright, HIE chief executive, said: “We are extremely grateful to all those who took part in this study. It is an excellent piece of work that presents a long-term vision for Cairngorm, which will be used to prioritise future investment.

“Clearly £27m, even over 10 years, is a large investment for a single resort, and funding is often the most challenging of all obstacles. However, the report certainly gives us all something to work towards.”

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