Crowds turn out for Cairngorm snow

15th November 2010, by Chris Gill

Winter has arrived on Cairngorm ...

Winter has arrived on Cairngorm ...

Scotland’s Cairngorm mountain was back in action for skiing and boarding again this weekend, just 145 days after closing for the 2009/10 season.

Winter made an early appearance on the Scottish mountains last week, enabling the ski season to get going a little early. Over 130 skiers turned out to enjoy the Cairngorm snowfalls, which have been filling in the runs nicely. Light winds and good visibility made it a great first day on the hill too. Snow showers continued throughout the weekend, prompting the resort to consider opening on Monday and Tuesday to take advantage of the cold weather.

At present, the riding is restricted to experienced skiers and boarders only; there are no beginner slopes open. But there is good top-to-middle riding from the Ptarmigan restaurant on three pisted runs and some unpisted areas.

Spokesperson for Cairngorm Tania Alliod said: ‘This has been a great start and we’ve received many appreciative messages of support for making the effort to open up this weekend. We hope the cold conditions continue and we can add to the great base that is building up. There is plenty of terrain for intermediates and experts to find their snow legs.’

Cairngorm’s opening coincides with a local government call to relax the rules that class ski lifts as private vehicles. Highland ministers believe that Scottish ski areas are at a disadvantage compared with the rest of Europe because of a VAT charge on ski lifts. And, therefore, visitors pay more for lift passes in general. In turn, that has a negative impact on winter tourism in the region.

At present, only vehicles capable of carrying more than 10 passengers can be classed as public transport and be exempt from VAT. This differs from other European rules, which measure capacity by the whole lift not individual seats. According to Highland news reports:

A Treasury spokesman has said: ‘Ski lifts carrying under ten passengers in both the UK and other EU member states cannot have their VAT rate changed to zero, because under the terms of long-standing agreement with our EU partners member states cannot extend current zero rates or introduce new ones.

And the UK’s independent VAT tribunal has confirmed that ski lift systems are not vehicles in their own right but are the mechanism for moving the gondolas. It is only where the individual gondolas are capable of carrying ten or more passengers that VAT would not be charged.’

However, visitors using Cairngorm’s funicular lift this weekend would have been riding a lift exempt from the tax. The two carriages carry 120 passengers between them.

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