Can I go skiing in Scotland this winter? Everything you need to know about a Highlands ski trip

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With the coronavirus pandemic still limiting travel, is skiing in Scotland a possibility this winter?

Skiing in Scotland is a divisive topic.

Some people praise the rugged beauty, competitive costs and challenging runs offered by the Highlands. Others say that the unpredictable weather conditions, limited runs and ageing infrastructure make it a no-go.

But what the naysayers haven’t previously had to contend with is the benefit of staying on UK soil – and potentially avoiding a 14-day quarantine by doing so.

Where can you ski in Scotland?

Scotland has five main ski resorts: Cairngorm Mountain (with 32 runs and 11 lifts), Glencoe Mountain (20 runs and 8 lifts), Glenshee (36 runs and 21 lifts), Nevis Range (35 runs and 12 lifts) and Lecht Ski Centre (20 runs and 14 lifts).

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All have marked pistes, off-piste areas, lifts, car/coach parks, cafes, restaurants, ski shops and toilets. Runs range from beginner to expert level, and you should expect a few T-bar and button lifts as well as chair lifts.

Some say of Scotland that “if you can ski here, you can ski anywhere,” since it can be so challenging. However, there’s also plenty of space for learners (and lessons available).

Other activities, like tubing, are also on offer.

How do you get there?

By far the easiest way to access the Scottish ski resorts is by car, and you should be able to reach all of them in between one and three hours from Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow. There’s also the option to stay in a Highlands hotel. Buses and coaches are available.

How much does it cost to ski in Scotland?

Costs don’t vary too much mountain-to-mountain. 

Passes for the slopes range from £15 to £40 depending on your age, whether you’re doing a full or half day, and whether it’s a weekday or weekend. An adult full day pass is around £30.

A full day of ski/boot/pole hire for an adult should cost between £20 and £30.

When can you ski in Scotland?

Scotland’s ski season generally runs from December to early April, but this can vary based on that all-important question…

Will there be any snow?

The biggest downside to skiing in Scotland – or rather, the biggest uncertainty – is the weather. Strong winds may blow up the mountains, which can make skiing anywhere from tricky to downright unpleasant.

Then there’s the snow. Ultimately, it’s difficult to predict far in advance when it’ll fall, and when it’ll be at its best. As well as checking the snow forecast, you should check the websites or social media pages of a resort shortly before you travel there to avoid disappointment. They have live webcams so you can get a proper sense of the conditions.

If you’re not able to hoof it up to the Highlands at short notice, the best thing to do may be to plan a holiday that incorporates a city break or hike, and consider the possibility of skiing as an added bonus. Inverness was ranked the UK’s most cultural city in 2019, don’t you know?

Will Scotland’s ski season still take place despite the pandemic?

The resorts are planning to open for skiers this winter, but there may be limits on cafe and restaurant facilities, and social distancing measures will be in place. Again, you should check websites for the latest info closer to the time.

Can’t I just go to the Alps this winter?

Quite possibly. We’ve previously looked at whether it’s safe to book a ski holiday for the 2020-2021 season, and concluded that as long as you have a sufficiently flexible booking policy, you should be able to do so.

As we’ve all learnt by now in 2020, nothing is certain. Currently you have to quarantine on return from France and Austria, and it’s not possible to head further afield to ski destinations like Canada. Whether that will be the case in January 2021 remains to be seen.

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