Wednesday 10 October saw the first meeting of key stakeholders in a new response team, set up to address the potential impact of the current closure of the Cairngorm funicular railway.
All partners recognised the significant importance of Cairngorm to the Badenoch and Strathspey economy. They agreed there was a real need to pull together to ensure its success as a year-round visitor attraction, both now and in the longer term.
Landowner Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and operator CairnGorm Mountain Ltd (CML) confirmed they are exploring all options to ensure the hill is ready for business when the winter snow arrives. The aim is to deliver the best possible skier experience without the funicular.
A key component of the plan will be the potential to utilise snow making equipment at lower levels. This will make the mountain accessible for beginners, and reduce congestion in other high traffic areas.
Earlier this year, HIE supported trials of snow making technology at three of Scotland’s ski centres – Cairngorm, the Lecht and Glencoe – with generally positive results.
During the meeting, HIE and the Highland Council also committed to support local businesses that might be affected by the present situation. This includes offering one-to-one advice, and access to loan funding, where appropriate, through Highland Opportunity.
The response team members also agreed to work together on a programme of marketing and communications. This will keep the local community and mountain sport enthusiasts informed of developments. It will also promote the strong wider message that Cairngorm and Strathspey are open for business.
The meeting was arranged by HIE and chaired by Highland Council Convener and local Councillor Bill Lobban.
Cllr Lobban said:
“I was really impressed that everyone who attended shared a very positive attitude and a strong desire to work together to achieve a way forward at Cairngorm.
“We all agree that snowsports play a vital role in the economy of Aviemore and the wider Badenoch and Strathspey area, and it is in the whole community’s interest that Cairngorm is a successful attraction.”
Ewan Kearney of CML said: “There is no doubt that this is going to be a challenging season, but we have operated for skiing without the funicular in prior winters; and are confident that with additional planning and resource we will be able to continue to offer great skiing this winter as well.
“It’s also worth highlighting the range of other activities that are still available for visitors this autumn, including our café, nature trails and forthcoming Christmas market.”
Charlotte Wright, HIE chief executive, said:
“We’re delighted to have such strong support from the local business community and other public organisations, all of whom are committed to working in partnership for the benefit of the whole area.
“As well as addressing the current, urgent situation, there was also a strong appetite to look to the longer term, and work towards a shared vision for Cairngorm and Badenoch and Strathspey as a leading ski centre.
“Wednesday’s meeting was the first of several we’ll be hosting, and it brought forward a variety of great ideas that will form the basis of an action plan for us and our partners to take forward over the coming weeks and months.”
The meeting included representatives from: Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust, Aviemore Business Association, Cairngorm Mountain Trust, Cairngorm Business Partnership, resort operator CairnGorm Mountain Ltd (CML), the Cairngorms National Park Authority, HIE, the Highland Council, Snowsport Scotland, and VisitScotland.