Cairngorm ski uplift review gets underway

A major independent and comprehensive review of ski uplift facilities and infrastructure on Cairngorm Mountain is about to get underway.

HIE has appointed North American firm SE Group to carry out the review, which will take around eight months to complete.

The contractors will be consulting a wide range of local and national interest groups over the coming months. The review will identify and assess options for potential future investment in infrastructure.

It will explore how Cairngorm might adapt for success in a changing ski market and identify potential opportunities for year-round diversification as well as growth in snow sports. 

SE Group will also investigate options for redevelopment of infrastructure in the lower part of Coire na Ciste, following a recent clear up exercise that included the removal of old, disused chairlifts.

Other aspects of the infrastructure such as more effective snowmaking, which would improve customer experience and accessibility, will be another area of focus.

Cairngorm is Scotland’s biggest snow sports destination. HIE owns the 3,500-acre Cairngorm Estate, around half of which is leased to CairnGorm Mountain Limited (CML) as a year-round visitor attraction.

The resort is home to the UK's highest funicular railway and restaurant. It attracts more than 200,000 visitors each year and provides valuable rural employment, particularly during winter.

At the heart of the UK’s largest National Park the mountain was named by National Geographic as one of the 50 Great Places on Earth. Adventure tourism plays a key part of the wider area’s tourism offering.

Susan Smith, HIE’s head of business development, said:

“SE Group has extensive experience helping ski resorts around the world improve their operations through new opportunities and addressing some of the challenges associated with weather- dependent businesses. We are delighted to be able to bring their international expertise to Scotland to support us in getting this important review underway.

“Over the coming months we are very keen to engage with interest groups, local communities and businesses and get their input and views as part of the review.

“Cairngorm Mountain is a major part of the sustainable tourism offering in and around Aviemore and Strathspey. It is important to develop this key visitor attraction in a way that will increase visitor numbers, generate year-round income and provide employment.

“The uplift review will be a very valuable exercise focused on achieving those aims and will contribute significantly to the long term strategy for the ski area, which will guide future investment priorities for HIE and CML.”

Ewan Kearney, chief operating officer with CairnGorm Mountain Limited, said: “We are pleased that the uplift review is about to commence as this work will play a vital part in the decision making process for the future direction of CairnGorm Mountain.  This is an issue that generates a lot of discussion amongst snowsports enthusiasts, who will also be heartened by this news. We will work closely with SE Group throughout the process and look forward to reviewing the outcomes and recommendations.”

Claire Humber, SE Group’s director of resort planning and design, added: “We’re honoured to have been chosen for this engagement. As a recreational resource that connects its users to the stunning natural environment of the National Park, Cairngorm Mountain is valued by many. We appreciate the complexity, and challenges associated with this venue and its operation – as a recreational facility, a tourism destination, a local employer and regional economic driver. We are looking forward to getting started and working with the Cairngorm team to explore and evaluate future opportunities.”

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