The deep hard snow cover is enabling workers to take a tracked excavator onto the hill to break up and remove remaining concrete bases without disturbing the ground below.
Without this snow cover, small hand-held power breaking tools would need to be used by workers who would have to walk into to the site daily. This would stretch the work over six weeks rather than a few days.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), which owns Cairngorm Estate, contracted Aviemore based McGowan Limited last year to carry out the clear up works. Susan Smith, HIE’s head of business development, said:
“We have agreed with the contractor that it makes good sense to take advantage of the ground protection afforded by the snow cover and take the excavator onto the hill to finish this part of the job. Removing the remaining concrete from the hill will be done in much less time with reduced disturbance to the environment. It will also allow reinstatement to take effect more quickly.”
Contractors expect to take the machine to the site on Sunday night (25 February) after close of skiing operations. The work of breaking out and bagging remaining concrete at the departure block of the former West Wall chairlift is scheduled to commence on Monday.
On Tuesday, the machine is planned to be moved to the former Aonach ski-tow bases and work is due to be completed on Wednesday. The machine will then be moved off site. The bagged and marked broken concrete will be flown out by helicopter, as planned, in early summer.
The contractor will liaise closely with resort operator, CairnGorm Mountain Limited, to avoid inconvenience to the skiing public during the operation. Snow and weather conditions will be carefully monitored throughout the operation.
HIE announced earlier this month (February) that it had appointed North American consultants SE Group to conduct a review of ski uplift facilities and infrastructure on Cairngorm, consulting a range of local and national interest groups. This review will include examining potential options for developing new infrastructure in Coire na Ciste in the future.