Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has awarded the operator, the Lecht Ski Company (LSC), more than £200,000 towards the £520,000 costs of acquiring a Snow Factory machine from Italian firm, TechnoAlpin.
HIE supported trials of the technology at three Scottish ski centres last season with positive results.
Having it in place permanently at the Lecht will guarantee a start date to the skiing season and will help maintain snow cover during periods when there is a lack of natural snow.
The machine will give continuous cover on the nursery area which is important for securing jobs at the Lecht and for the Lecht Ski School which attracts many school groups, and will guarantee snow from early December to mid April.
It will also enable the centre to guarantee skiing during the three key holiday periods of Christmas, half-term and Easter. This will help mitigate the impact that lack of natural snow can have on the company’s profitability and workforce.
Milder winters have had a direct impact on natural snow conditions at the Lecht, resulting in challenging conditions for LSC. Existing snowmaking and snow management at the centre includes the use of natural snow, snow cannons, fencing and moving snow around the hillside with equipment known as ‘Piste - bashers’. These existing technologies do however struggle to maintain good skiing and snowboarding conditions during milder winter spells.
HIE has worked with LSC for more than 25 years and has supported investments, in plant, equipment, infrastructure, marketing, strategy development, business modelling and digital advice.
Angie Smith, HIE’s business account manager for the centre, said:
“The Lecht is a very popular skiing destination and an important part of Scotland’s wider ski industry and tourism sector, which provides valuable rural employment.
“Last year’s trial of snow making technology at the centre was very successful, with universally positive results. It will make a huge difference to customer confidence and visitor experience. Importantly it will also make the business more sustainable and provide job security for employees.
“I am delighted we are able to support this investment and look forward to seeing the equipment installed.”
James McIntosh, of LSC, added:
“As well as improving skiing conditions and reliability on the main slopes, this equipment is great for maintaining features such as jumps and rails for snowboarders; something that more and more customers are looking for.
“The trial last year made a huge difference here and we were left in no doubt about pursuing this investment. For the first time, we will be able to guarantee a start date for the season, and that there will be snow here during the key dates of Christmas, half term and Easter.
“The investment from HIE means we can install the equipment sooner than would be the case otherwise. We certainly welcome this and look forward to having the facility up and running in the next few weeks.”