Ski: Glencoe Mountain Resort

[Views from the top of the ski area are stunning on a clear day - this is looking south]

Bleakly set on the slopes of Meall a' Bhuiridh and overlooking the vast expanse of Rannoch Moor, Glencoe Mountain Resort should be first on your list if you like your piste skiing rugged and wild - but its scope for beginners has improved greatly over recent years. In perfect snow conditions Scotland's biggest lift-served vertical is available - 730 metres - with decent terrain for all abilities. If wild and windy, there's not much to do indoors in the area.

Scroll down for a more in depth guide.

[Looking over the plateau from the Spring Run, Rannoch Moor beyond]

Name: Glencoe Mountain Resort ★★☆
Location: Off A82, east end of Glen Coe, G.R.: NN 267525 ///gosh petrified expect
Day lift pass (midweek / weekends and holidays) (2017/18): £25 / £32 (adults), £18 / £20 (children)
Equipment hire (2017/18): £25 (adults), £20 (children)
Average season (snowsports): January to April, conditions permitting

Don't miss: The Haggis Trap - a narrow gully at the bottom of the Main Basin. A unique terrain feature unless it's filled in with snow!

[The Plateau Poma (pictured) & Coire Pollach Tow serve excellent gentle greens (January 2016)]

Guide to the slopes:

The ski area splits naturally into four vertical levels. At the top of the long Access Chairlift from the car park you're greeted by the gentle Plateau, first served by the short Beginners Rope Tow and longer Plateau Poma flanked by gentle greens - the Plateau Run the signature one. From the top of the lift, further greens curve away to skier's left served by the Coire Pollach Tow, new for the 2015/16 season. Access Return continues past the Plateau Cafe, eventually returning to the top of the chair by a flattish cat track. The single-seater Cliffhanger Chair and The Wall T-bar both depart from the general area around the cafe, together covering mid-mountain. Neither lift is long, but they access a brilliantly varied area of terrain thanks to the underlying topography - from slightly tricky greens on skier's right, to the black Canyon run which follows a natural gully.

From the top of the T-bar you can ski across to the Main Basin T-bar and Rannoch Button Tow - parallel lifts taking you to the summit and upper mountain runs. To skier's left are long, wide blues, with the Main Basin often a wide, immaculately groomed blast, and Etive Glades heading away from all the lifts at the far edge of the piste map. Confident intermediates and upwards should head in the other direction, on a narrow mountain path which accesses the wide, occasionally groomed Spring Run and never groomed Flypaper. The latter is Scotland's steepest run, often closed due to avalanche risk but set in a bowl with gradients approaching 45 degrees early in the season before snowfall helps it mellow a little. Further across still, the East Ridge often provides good off-piste, avalanche risk permitting.

Finally, three (sometimes unmarked) access runs head back to the car park under the access chair. Some seasons these never have enough snow to open (a Snowfactory on trial for 2017/18 should help combat this), but if available they allow 730 metres of lift-served on-piste vertical, unmatched elsewhere in the UK. A useful dry ski slope at the very bottom allows ski school beginner teaching when conditions cause lifts to close.

[Top of the Main Basin T-bar]

Snow and weather: Glencoe's underlying terrain is incredibly rocky - in the summer it bears almost no resemblance to when you see it under heavy snow. As a result, the mountain often opens slightly later in the season than the Eastern centres, once the gullies and natural snowfields have had a chance to fill in. Once this happens, the mid- and upper-mountain usually stays in good condition for a long season - they face north or north-east, sheltered from the sun and benefiting from south-westerly snow storms. Late in the season the Plateau Poma needed to access the higher runs can suffer - this is a weak point, and there are plans for a new chairlift here in the not-too-distant future. The access chair is prone to wind-closure, which jeopardises the rest of the mountain.

[The access runs rarely have this much snow - below the chair there's usually a deep gorge with a mountain river in it!]

Queues: The small car park limits numbers at Glencoe, keeping queues bearable even on the busiest days if most lifts are running.  The mid-morning migration up the mountain can produce temporary waits for the Plateau Poma. Queues for ski hire can be painful at weekends and during holiday season - arrive early.

Facilities: Ski school and ski / snowboard hire are available, but see paragraph above. There are two cafes - one at the base, the other on the Plateau. Both serve simple Scottish fare, black pudding most definitely included. Basic "hobbit houses" are available on-site for overnight stays. The car park does get full on the busiest days.

Access: The A82 is re-opened quickly even after exceptional snowstorms. Glasgow: 1 3/4 hours; Edinburgh: 2 1/4 hours; Inverness: 2 1/4 hours

[Ski hire at Glencoe - arrive early to avoid queueing]

Downhill skiing in the Scottish Highlands: 5 ski centres, 4 golden rules:
  1. Bad weather (especially wind) is more likely to impact on your enjoyment than poor snow conditions. If booking early, have a back-up plan in case the centre has to close or conditions are unappealing. Otherwise, head up during a settled spell with good snow.
  2. Visit midweek or arrive early if at all possible to avoid queues. All the centres (Cairngorm in particular, Nevis Range not so much) can be packed at weekends and during school holidays.
  3. Use winterhighland for independent, up-to-date information on conditions and lift opening - easily the best online resource for Scottish skiing.
  4. Scottish skiing is unique, so don't expect it to be the same as skiing in the Alps. Great skiing days in Scotland are every bit as amazing as great skiing days in the Alps, but comparing the two is like trying to compare a Speyside whisky to one from Islay.
[Glencoe piste map (2017/18 season)]

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