I don't know if it's the stormier winters we've been having or the increasing sophistication of snowmaking in the UK, but skiing and snow sports in Scotland are getting more reliable and more diversified every year.
It may not be the Alps, but when you are skiing a 2 kilometer black run, in the snow at between 2,500 and 4,000 feet, does that really matter?
Let's be honest, if you are visiting from overseas, you probably won't want to cart your skis with you for a UK winter skiing holiday. But if you are a keen skiier, willing to make do with locally rented equipment, and you happen to be visiting the UK when the skies open up, why not take advantage of the situation. You can even take a bus from Edinburgh to a day trip of good skiing in the eastern Cairngorms.
You know that optimistic saying, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade? Think of it this way instead - if the skies give you snowstorms, go skiing. Here are the best places to hit the slopes for skiing, snow boarding and other winter sports in Scotland:
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Cairn Gorm Mountain
Deep within the Cairngorms National Park, this is probably the most well developed of the Scottish ski resorts and is located in an area with a variety of other winter sports available.
- Where: The ski and snowboarding area is about 9 miles from the year round outdoor resort of Aviemore.
- Runs and Lifts: There are 11 lifts, ranging from a funicular train to the top of the pistes at about 3,500 feet, through T-bar and Poma lifts. The center has a good variety of red, blue and green runs as well as several challenging black runs.
- Other Facilities: A good ski school operates every day for skiers of all abilities, for children and for families. Ski and snowboarding hire facilities are available and equipment can be reserved online the day before you need it.
- Worth Knowing About: Day passes are available. Accommodations in nearby Aviemore range from family self-catering to luxury lodges.
- Transportation: Parking areas fill early when ski conditions are good. Your best bet is a local bus from Aviemore that drops skiers off at the ticket office entrance.
- Contact: +44 (0)1479 861261
- Website - Check for ski conditions and live webcams.
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The Nevis Range
Ben Nevis is the highest mountain in the British Isles, at about 4,400 feet. The ski area beneath its summit includes the highest runs in the UK with the potential of the most reliable snow.
- Where: The ski and snowboarding area is in Torlundy about 7 miles northeast of Fort William on the A82 toward Inverness.
- Runs and Lifts: There are 12 lifts, ranging from a gondola to button tows and trainer tows and including quad chairs and double chairs. Of the 24 runs, five are black and 11 are red.
- Other Facilities: In addition to the Snow Sport school, with classes from beginner to level six, there are advanced workshops for the off-piste areas known as the Back Corries and transceiver training for experienced, black run expert skiers who want to undertake these off-piste areas.
- Worth Knowing About: The National Trust for Scotland's Glencoe Visitor Center, nearby, is open year round. It's a place of fantastic scenery and a tragic, romantic history.
- Transportation: There is regular bus service to the ski area from Fort William
- Contact: +44 (0)1397 705825
- Website - Check for conditions and to see mountain webcam and panorama webcam.
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Ski in the historic glen, a designated Area of Natural Beauty, on some of the longest and steepest runs in Scotland
- Where: On Rannoch Moor, 26 miles southeast of Fort William, Glencoe Mountain Resort is one of Scotland's more remote ski stations.
- Runs and Lifts: There are 19 runs and seven lifts, with snow in December starting at about 1,000 feet and vertical runs from 2,700 feet.
- Other Facilities: The snow sports school caters for all ages and abilities. Lessons are available in groups or for individuals. Courses in advanced skills are offered onsite by Hebridean Pursuits. In 2013 these included winter navigation skills, mountaineering for skiers and snowboarders and winter walking skills.
- Worth Knowing About: The onsite cafe is open from 8:30am to 8:30pm and serves hot food until 8pm. Skiers deals are available from hotels in the area and new microlodges on the resort's own camping area are a cheap and popular alternative (bring your own sleeping bag).
- Transportation: By car, the resort is southeast of Fort William on the A82. The Glasgow-Fort William bus service operated by Scottish Citylink stops at the resort.
- Contact: +44 (0)1855 851 226
- Website - In addition to webcams, weather and ski reports, the website has lots of videos, an active twitter stream and good information on nearby inns and hotels.
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Glenshee Ski Resort
This is Scotland's largest ski resort with more than 40k of pistes as well as off-piste skiing.
- Where: The ski area is in the southeastern part of the Cairngorms National Park, off the A93 at Cairnwell near Braemar.
- Runs and Lifts: Ski runs here are high for Britain, ranging from 2,132ft to 3504ft. There are 36 runs including 13 red and 2 black. They're kept in good condition by first rate snowmaking facilities including three mobile snow cannons. The resort has 22 lifts, including chair lifts, t-bars and Poma lifts.
- Other Facilities: Ski and snowboarding lessons for individuals, families and groups are available from Snowsport Highland Ski School and Fresh Tracks Ski School. There are three cafes servings snacks, lunches and hot meals.
- Worth Knowing About: Hire facilities include every part of the skier's and snowboarder's kit, including ski suits. Fitting and maintenance help is available.
- Transportation: The Glenshee Ski Bus leaves Edinburgh at 6am Saturdays and Sundays and costs £45 online for a round trip ticket and a day ski pass. Information about the bus service is available online from ScotSkiBus.com
- Contact: +44 (0)13397 41320
- Website - A panoramic webcam, links to accommodations and services and useful information available in Gaelic.