While browsing Facebook on a Friday night it became clear that any nonessential weekend plans would need to be cancelled. Cairngorm Mountain in Aviemore posted a status reporting fresh snowfall and predicting excellent conditions for the days ahead, this was our call to action. A battle plan was quickly drawn up; do the shopping that night, condense two days worth of obligations into the Saturday, then drive up to Aviemore in the evening so that we could attack the the slopes early on Sunday. We went online and found a cheap bed and breakfast with a room available, no going back.
Relatively unheard of outside the British Isles, Scotland has five ski areas: Cairngorm, Glenshee, The Lecht, Glencoe and The Nevis Range. None of them are on the same scale as a typical European resort, and the relatively low altitudes mean that they are far from snow-sure. However, when there is fresh snow, a day up in the highlands can rival any day on the continent. These factors mean that the best way to plan your visit is not to plan at all, those who make a last-minute dash upon hearing about good conditions reap much greater rewards.
After a three hour drive we reached Aviemore, where it was snowing even down at town level. There was so much snow that we struggled to get up the dirt track that led to the b&b. We got an early night, since we knew that if the weather was good then we’d be in for something special. The next morning, the car thermometer read -5 degrees while we de-iced the windows, inside and out. The drive up to the mountain had never been more picturesque, with fir trees guiding the way completely blanketed in snow. After putting on our boots and grabbing our boards we hurried excitedly to the ticket office, but our powder-induced bubble soon burst.
It seemed that everyone had the same idea as us, since the queue stretched out of the ticket office and part of the way down the hill. After that agonising wait, it was straight from one queue to another, as we also had to get in line for the funicular up the mountain. When we finally made it up the hill, we spotted a whiteboard with the snow report written on it. Our excitement returned when it read simply “Snow conditions – Awesome.” And they were.
Some of the deepest, driest powder we had ever ridden and not a single cloud in the sky, all with the stunning backdrop of Loch Morlich looking up at us. Even towards the end of the day we were finding fresh lines and finding ourselves knee deep in snow. We could have been anywhere in the world, but we were less than 200 miles from home. It was a day that showcased the very best of Scottish snowsports, and one that proved that a powder day is a powder day.