Ski: Nevis Range

Highland | Fort William | Ski centre | ★★★★

[Looking over the lower slopes, with Loch Lochy in the distance]

Scotland's swankiest lift system, its highest slopes, views of Ben Nevis and the sea (well, a sea loch), and a notable absence of queues. What's not to like? Okay, it's a shame about that wind-affected access gondola and the long drive from the Central Belt, but Nevis Range definitely deserves more recognition from the numerous skiers who choose to go elsewhere.

Scroll down for a more in-depth guide.

[Skies clearing over Ben Nevis, seen from Spectre at the summit]

Location & info

📌 Nevis Range ★★★★
Off the A82 5 mi east of Fort William, G.R.: NN 172774 ///agreeable.requires.height

Average winter season: Late December to April, conditions permitting
Day lift pass: £35.50 adult / £23.50 child for 2019/20 season
Equipment hire: £24.50 adult / £18.50 child for 2019/20 season



Don't miss...

The Back Corries - a huge expanse of steep, expert terrain accessed from near the summit and sporadically served by the Braveheart Chair. Unmarked, not always patrolled and often with large cornices to negotiate as you enter.

[Looking up the Goose T-bar]

Guide to the slopes

The ski area doesn't really begin until the top of the fancy Gondola, although once in a blue moon you can pick your way down forestry tracks and mountain bike trails on skis, back to the car park which is nearly at sea level. Scattered around the gondola station there's an extensive array of beginner lifts and runs, making up Zone B which is also handily covered by a cheaper lift pass. First-timers can start off on short green runs served by the Rope Tow, Linnhe Button and Lochy Button, but shouldn't neglect the Rob Roy T-bar with its greens and blues accessed by the two-way Great Glen Chair. This T-bar sits on its own on an often more snowy northeast aspect. Rob Roy's Return traverses back to the gondola top station and is a decent long, easy run. Also in Zone B, the longer Alpha Button takes you to ideal progression runs, with Alpha, Yockies and Rabbit Run returning fairly directly to the base, and Macpherson's providing an alternative route to the Rob Roy area.

For intermediates upward, the rest of the area is where most of the interest lies. From the top of the Alpha Button, useful traverses take you to the main area served by the Quad Chair, Goose T-bar and Summit Button - the former is Scotland's only four-seater chairlift. All serve lovely wide runs - The Goose's broad bowl is probably Nevis's signature run and links into the narrower Allt Snechda gully to give a great, long cruise. To skier's left, Sidewinder deserves a mention, zig-zagging across to the top of the quad; meanwhile, Far West goes exactly there, with some of the best views of Loch Eil. The blues off the summit button are Scotland's highest marked runs, and resemble an Alpine glacier area, often with excellent snow. Views toward Ben Nevis from Spectre are sensational.

For experts, feast your eyes on the left half of the piste map. Warren's T-bar serves long, unpisted blacks, some susceptible to wind scouring. However, it's the Back Corries where Nevis Range really comes into its own. If suitably equipped with avalanche gear, and snow conditions make it safe to do so, you can drop (usually literally, off cornices) from the aptly-named Lemming Ridge into a vast area of off-piste, with yellow itineraries for inspiration on the piste map. If the Braveheart Chair is open, nearly 600 m vertical of lift-served powder may be available, after which you can traverse back around to the front of the mountain via the Rob Roy area. In good conditions, nowhere in Scotland comes close to the Back Corries for lift-assisted off-piste.

[Early season, looking towards the Back Corries]

Snow & weather

The furthest northwest of the ski centres, Nevis Range's weather can be very different to the other snowsports destinations - sometimes missing out on snow while other areas benefit, and vice versa. Snow in the Goose gully and on the summit is usually reliable, but lower surface lifts are needed to access these - once the Alpha Button uptrack melts, the area quickly becomes disjointed. The beginner area near the gondola top station is low and can have poor snow, though we hope a new snowmaking system installed for the 2019/20 season will have a transformational effect; the gentle Rob Roy zone also often has better conditions. The Braveheart Chair in the Back Corries usually opens late season once successive westerly storms fill them up with snow, and only when avalanche risk is deemed low enough. Beware - the traverse back to the front of the mountain may not have snow, even when the main itineraries do. Wind-wise, the Summit button and access Gondola are vulnerable. Piste grooming is excellent, and often continues throughout the day.

[The Quad Chair swallows up queues and crowds brilliantly]

Queues

Lack of crowds and queues is one of Nevis Range's biggest draws. The high capacity access Gondola whisks everyone up onto the mountain without waiting, and the Quad Chair swallows up huge numbers further up. In good snow, multiple beginner lifts and slopes prevent the nursery areas from becoming too crowded. The isolated northerly location helps - for most customers, other ski centres are a shorter drive away.

Facilities

Ski and snowboard hire is spacious, with a newly launched "premium" range also available. Ski school is available. There are three places to eat - the Pinemarten at the base serves good food, and the Snowgoose at the gondola top station has something bordering on Alpine mountain restaurant ambience. The Goose T-Hut is little more than a shack and opens at peak weekends. Accommodation is best sought in Fort William, a few minutes' drive away. Parking shouldn't be an issue - the car park's huge.

Access

The A82 from Glasgow or Inverness is reliably kept open. From Perth or Edinburgh the A9 / A86 route is also fairly safe, although the high parts of the A9 sometimes shut due to snow, especially overnight. Inverness: 1 1/2 hours; Glasgow: 2 1/2 hours; Edinburgh: 2 3/4 hours

[Looking towards Loch Eil from Inside Edge]

Piste map

[Nevis Range piste map (2019/20 season)]

Ski centres in the Scottish Highlands

>> Cairngorm Mountain ★★★
>> Glencoe Mountain Resort ★★★★
>> Glenshee Ski Centre ★★★★
>> Lecht 2090 ★★★
>> Nevis Range ★★★★

Tips for planning a skiing trip in Scotland

  1. Weather (especially wind) is just as likely to impact on your enjoyment as poor snow conditions. If booking early, have a backup 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 to avoid queues. All the centres (Cairngorm in particular, Nevis Range not so much) can be packed at weekends and during school holidays. If visiting on a busy day, arrive as early as possible and stay late.
  3. Check the ski centre's social media feeds or winterhighland for up-to-date info on snow conditions, weather and open lifts.
  4. Scottish skiing is unique, so don't expect it to be the same as skiing in the Alps or elsewhere. Great skiing days in Scotland are every bit as amazing as great skiing days abroad, but comparing the two is like trying to compare a Speyside whisky to one from Islay.

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