Ski Mountaineering Through Scotland’s Landscapes
Ski mountaineering enthusiasts readily agree that this burgeoning sport is one of the best ways to view Scotland’s hills in winter, while avoiding the inevitable crowds on piste. Ski mountaineering, also referred to as ski touring, is offered by a number of tour operators and ski schools to skiers looking for some adventure, and Scotland’s rugged landscape has some superb ski mountaineering options.
In Lochaber and the Western Highlands of Scotland, the peaks and plateaus of the Mamore mountain range near Fort William beckon skiers to sharpen their skills. A gondola uplift makes the summit of Aonach Mor reasonably easy to reach, with other more strenuous options for those who feel up to the challenge, such as tackling Ben Nevis, which at 1344 meters is the highest peak in Scotland. In the Central Highlands, skiers are likely to find good ski mountaineering conditions on Ben More and Stob Binnein by Crianlarich, as well as the grassy hills of Ben Lawers and Ben Alder just southwest of Dalwhinnie.
The Cairngorms National Park offers some good skiing opportunities, generally along with favorable weather conditions, especially in late March and April. The Cairngorms massif has a good snowfall record, bold summits, extensive plateau and a variety of downhill terrain including challenging gullies and wide open powder fields. A favored route of ski mountaineers is to tour the round of the Northern Corries, taking skiers over the summits of Ben Macdui, Cairn Lochan and Cairngorms.
While ski mountaineering can be more risky than conventional skiing, if carried out responsibly it need not be dangerous. Before taking to the hills, skiers will be given brief training on safety measures and the equipment needed, which includes avalanche transceivers and ice axes. The skis that are used for ski mountaineering allow the heel to be free during ascents, snapping into a fixed position for descents. As is the case with any trip into the mountains during winter, skiers need to know how to navigate and must constantly be aware of changing weather conditions, which can be quite rapid at times. Beginners would do well to undertake their first ski mountaineering adventure under the watchful eye of experienced instructors, and in this way gain the most benefit from ski mountaineering in Scotland.