HOW TO SURVIVE
The best thing about skiing in Scotland is that all four resorts are within easy reach of central belt and this means that more people are able to indulge in a supposedly elite sport. Those who prefer not to gamble with the weather might opt for a cheap package abroad, but once you add up all the small print extras, these ‘bargains’ can seem rather expensive. The reputedly high standard of instruction here is unhampered by language barriers, and although the apres ski scene may lack the glamour of St Moritz, many feel that the whisky-soaked atmosphere in pubs and hotel bars is - warmer and livelier than on the Continent.
Resilient thrifty types sometimes camp on the snow next to a pub, but if an igloo tent seems less than appealing, the HIDB and STB have produced a brochure - ‘Ski Holidays in Scotland’ — available from travel agents, with an extensive list of places to stay, from plush hotels to _ self-catering youth hostels.
j Remember that the glossy pictures of azure skies and sparkling snow and bronzed men in mirror shades, must be taken with a massive pinch ‘ of salt.
- v - e ' ' Star/.7 0 WHAT TO WEAR The Scottish resort is no poseur’s paradise. In the Alps you often see good skiers in jeans and sweaters, but unless you fancy a dose of hypothermia or frostbite, wind and waterproof garments are essential. The best outfits are lined with Thinsulite, a warm light material, and laminated with highly resistant Gor-Tex, but a new suit will cost at least £150. A padded polyamide anorak (about £30) and nylon slacks, available secondhand from Flip (Queen Street, Glasgow and South Bridge, Edinburgh) are sufficient if lots of layers are worn underneath. Alternatively, salopettes and jackets can be hired for about £3 a day. A hat, padded gloves and mist-proof goggles are a must. The Glasgow Ski Centre Club is holding a sale of new and used clothes and equipment on 30 November from 9am at 16, Dumbreck Road, Bellahouston Park (041 427 4991).
It is best to hire skis, boots and sticks before you get to the resort, unless you buy an all inclusive holiday, to save time. Nevisport on Sauchiehall Street has a ski workshop and a staff of experienced instructors to advise you. The shop’s entire hire stock was replaced last year. Saloman boots and bindings and Dynastar skis cost £10.50 forthe weekend. In Edinburgh Skisport and Sun on Barclay Terrace, EH10, charge £10 for two days’ hire. Boots which fit properly are absolutely crucial, even if they clash with your ski suit.
STV reports on snow conditions every Friday after the 6pm news. Details also on ORACLE. Daily forecasts are available on a 24 hour service covering all the ski centres, 031 246 8031 .
o DRY SLOPES
Lesley Beck, 21, one of the four girls in the British Ski Team, first learnt to ski on the small plastic run at Bearsden. Artificial slopes have become increasingly important world-wide for all year round training, and young Scottish competitive skiers depend upon them. Even if you do not intend to race down a slalom, those initial muscular aches and pains can be avoided if you warm up on plastic first and beginners can learn emergency snowplough stops. Both the SIOpe at Bellahouston Park (041 427 4991) and the 400m one at Hillend (031 455 4433) outside Edinburgh the longest in Britain, provide lessons with qualified instructors.
o LIFT PASSES
If you plan to ski more than 12—14 days this winter it is worth investing in a season ticket. ‘That way you don’t feel guilty about just skiing one run in a blizzard, and you can sit in a nice warm pub with a clear conscience’, explains a keen young Glaswegian. Day ticket prices are based on such bewildering factors (age, number of children, time of year etc) that it is best to check the brochure or contact the lift companies themselves (see phone nos below).
WHERE TO GO 0 CAIRNGORM
Turn off A9 at Aviemore and take the road by Coylumbridge past Loch Morlich to Coire Cas car park. Scottish National run a daily coach service from Aviemore. Cairngorm Chairlift Company 047 986 261.
This is Scotland’s biggest ski area and a new back-up tow on the West wall of Coire na Ciste should shorten queues. At the time of going to press, the resort boasts its best snow cover for 25 years, which is no bad sign for the season. The Ptarmigan Restaurant at the top of the White Lady chairlift is the highest eating place in Britain, but do not expect haute cuisine.
Badenoch Ski School in nearby Kingussie is run by Rudi Prochazka, who has plans for a new ski area at Drumochter. ‘I find teaching very rewarding and haven’t had a failure yet’, says the former electrical engineer from Czechoslovakia. Ring 05402 228 for prices and bookings. Those who prefer Nordic skiing should contact Cameron McNeish who runs a ﬁve day course from the Glen Feshie Hotel at Kincraig which serves free porridge in the morning! If you want a more substantial breakfast, the Coylumbridge Hotel, six miles from the slopes, serves 10 hot dishes and has swimming pools, an ice rink and a jazz band. Tel. 0479 810661.
Access: Take A93 from Perth which cuts through the resort. Glenshee Chairlift Company 03383 320.
This second largest resort in Aberdeenshire was chosen as the venue for the fist ever International Event — the UK leg of the World Cup Series Speed Skiing Championships last March. Avoid the crowds during Snow Fun Week (10—16 March) unless you want to watch racing. A new backup tow in Coire Fionn has opened and five kilometres of replacement fencing will hopefully assure better snow holding. There will also be an extra racecourse from a new Cairnwell tow by 1987.
The Spittal of Glenshee Hotel, five miles from the slopes, is run by Patsy Duncan, one of Britain’s top ski teachers who videos her private lessons on the slopes and plays them back at the hotel so that you can see all your mistakes in slow motion. Tel 025 085 215.
2W .. ’. I o GLENCO Glasgow’s nearest resort is only 93 miles away via the A82. White Corries Chairlift Company 08552 303. The lifts only run at weekends until 3 February when they open on Mondays. Easter opening 27 March - 1 April inclusive and extra days on 7 and 14 February.
‘It’s a bit of a myth that skiing at Glencoe is difﬁcult’, says Mr Hunter, managing director of White Corries. ‘I was over 50 when I started skiing but within a week I had done all the runs’. However the most frequent complaint is not about the horrendously vertical ‘Fly Paper’ piste, but about the desperate lack of toilets. Although the Scottish Sports Council is now considering financial backing for this long awaited facility, the resort lost so much money last year, that skiers will have to contain themselves for at least another season. The other drawback is that you have to walk half a mile from the access chairlift across ‘the plateau’ to reach the main lifts. However some people believe that this is why Glencoe has fewer accidents than the other resorts - skiers have a chance to warm up before they tackle the pistes.
The 17th century Kingshouse Hotel is a mere mile from the sl0pes and theoretically you can ski down to it. Mr Nicolson, the owner, believes that skiing at Glencoe — the Glen of Weeping— is ‘character-building’, but he will happily drive guests without cars up the hill in the morning. Tel. 08556 259.
0 THE LECHT
Take the A93 from Perth to the Bridge of Gairn and then the A939. There is no regular ski bus service. Lecht Ski Company Ltd 09754 240. Scotland’s youngest resort is popular with families and is considered the ideal place for beginners. The Lecht had its busiest season ever last year and will open its new 550m Buzzard tow next week which can uplift 1,200 skiers an hour. There will also be a new car park, improved cafe and toilet facilities. For the experienced skier there are a few challenging runs, although these cannot compete with the length of those at Cairngorm. Children’s sledges can be hired from the Ski Centre. The Allargue Arms Hotel is two miles from the slopes 09754 210.
The List 29 Nov- 12 Dec 11