Special feature on Cross country skiing in Scotland
When you think Scotland, skiing is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, the first resort opened here in 1954, in Glencoe, and Scotland now boasts five resorts: Nevis, Glenshee, The Lecht, Glencoe, and Aviemore.
Although none of these resorts are as high as their European counterparts, they are on the doorstep, and have all the facilities you would expect, from ski-hire, tuition, lifts and runs - there is also plenty to do in the après-ski department, with a Scottish twist.
The runs are, obviously, far shorter than anything you will find in the Alps, and the weather not so reliable, but after a good snowfall, and the weather fair, skiing in Scotland can be very good indeed. In addition to the downhill variety, you can try your hand at the Nordic, or cross-country, version. If the snow isn't there you could try your hand at ice climbing, and experience the thrill of shinning up a frozen waterfall.
The best known resort is near the town of Aviemore, and a ski bus will take you to the bottom of the lifts. There are 17 lifts servicing 28 runs and plenty of off-piste skiing, and it is also popular with snow boarders. The tops of these mountains are relatively flat so if cross-country is your choice there are plenty of routes for you to follow. Aviemore has plenty to keep you amused in the town (including an ice-rink). This is a popular area at all times of the year so there are plenty of places to stay in Aviemore from hostels to luxury self-catering cottages.
The Glenshee Ski Centre is situated just to the south of Braemar, and is the largest in the UK; with 26 lifts able to handle 20,000 skiers an hour, 25 miles of pistes, 30 miles of cross-country, and facilities that equal some of the smaller resorts on the continent, even though the snow cover is not as reliable. Being on Royal Deeside there are plenty of other activities to enjoy should the weather be against you, but if the conditions are in your favour you can have some lovely skiing in a stunning setting at Glenshee.
On the north side of the Caingorm range is The Lecht, the smallest resort in Scotland, and 3 miles from the town of Corgarff. It has 12 lifts and 17 runs, with a 200m dry slope in the middle. The skiing is pretty basic, and you have to go all the way to Tomintoul for some decent après-ski.
The other two resorts are on the western side of Scotland and the highest slopes are found on the reasonably new Nevis resort. This was started in 1989/90, and as you drive up to bottom of the gondola ride this feels very European. This feel-good factor runs out when you get out half-way up the mountain and have to lug your skis a couple of hundred feet to the next lift. However, with 24 runs and 8 lifts, a drop of 3000ft, some good skiing can be had here. The nearby town of Fort William is well able to cater for winter visitors, being the centre or climbing in this part of Scotland, so there are loads of guesthouses, and B&Bs, holiday cottages, and pubs to keep you warm and happy.