I know I said in my last post about a ski trip that I was dubious about writing about skiing but thought I’d share some thoughts about the weekend OMB and I spent skiing at Glenshee in the Cairngorms in Scotland anyway! I’d never seriously considered skiing in Scotland after looking at flying up and working out that the cost and travel time transferring from Aberdeen would end up with there being no advantage over going to the Alps. Also, unlike the Alps, the conditions in Scotland seemed to be too unpredictable to allow it to be anything other than a fairly spur of the moment ski destination.
However, while at Les Deux Alpes at half term, I saw a Facebook update from an old schoolfriend saying how good the snow was and how much variety there was. Listening to radio 4 when I got home, there was a report saying that Scotland was having its best ski season for years with enough snow to make skiing into May a possibility. Mrs B was going off to Morzine with friends for a long weekend so I wondered whether it might be an interesting experiment for me and the boy to try Glenshee.
So, after school on Friday we got in the car and went. Was six hours of driving from Leeds a realistic estimate from the satnav? Would that long in the car cripple me? Happily the answers to those questions were yes and no respectively!
By 10pm OMB and I were at the Moorfield House Hotel in Braemar where I had a nightcap in the bar in front of a log fire before we turned in to get a good night’s sleep. Our twin ensuite room was very nice and warm and a bargain at £72 a night including a very tasty cooked breakfast. It is right next to the stadium where the Highland Games are held so it would be a good place to visit in the summer too. The family running it were very friendly and helpful. We also ate dinner there on Saturday night and somehow they managed to serve the notoriously picky eating OMB a meal he loved (“this is the best roast chicken I’ve ever had”) without resorting to frozen nuggets and chips.
Fortified with our cooked breakfasts we got back in the car at 9 on Saturday morning to drive the 10 miles to Glenshee Ski Centre. I had booked ski hire before travelling although they seemed to have no record of it and it didnt make any difference to the speed of service. Unfortunately, the process of picking skis and boots up was not as smooth as we’ve grown accustomed to in alpine resorts. The kit itself was also approximately 15 years older than what you would get in most French resorts. No electronic lift passes here, no instead we got sticky labels to put onto wire hangers to thread onto our coat zips. However,at £140 for a couple days of hire and passes for the two of us it was a comparable price to spending the same time at the indoor slopes at Xscape which you can just point your skis down and do without any turns and which nobody could spend a weekend at unless an absolute beginner.
Anyway, after trudging back to the car to put our shoes away, we finally got onto our first lift by 10. After getting off the little chair lift, another shock. A T-Bar! I’ve skied for 12 years and never been on one. Unsurprisingly OMB fell off on our first go and we had an uncomfortably unbalanced ride up the mountain when he remounted. Then we reached the top to be hit by astonishingly icy strong winds while trying to negotiate the flat “Bunny Run” green piste. To get out of the wind and to go downhill we cut the corner of the piste, then realised we had no idea where to rejoin the piste. This pattern repeated on the next piste we attempted and OMB was ready to call it a day before lunch. Not a great start!
After a rest we regrouped and after a few zooms down the easy slope by the Claybokie drag lift sheltered from the wind were ready for lunch and a move over the other side of the A93 to the more promisingly named Sunnyside. Something approaching sunshine broke out in the afternoon and we had a great couple of hours. We decided when we came back for the morning on Sunday to stay over on that side and skied over most of the pistes. There was a good variety on this side, from gentle green runs to more challenging reds and a wide sheltered bowl. That said, OMB’s assessment was that the reds would have been blues in France but they probably just wanted to say they had some. The most challenging runs were closed (and I wouldn’t have been negligent enough a dad to have stuck him on a solo chair lift to get to the two black/red areas) so maybe there is a bit more for the daredevil which we didn’t see. The relative ease and short length of runs (the longest run, closed while were there is only 2km, most are nearer 500m) meant that the limited piste marking wasn’t often an issue but again took a bit of getting used to, as did the too frequent flat/uphill sections between lifts up the mountain. Particularly when the wind was strong enough to need a pole assisted start down one of the red runs!
Was it as good as the Alps? Frankly, no. But, there was plenty of skiing for an intermediate level skier for a weekend. And, at about £400 for a weekend for two (including the tank of diesel which the 660 miles of driving took) it is decent value. I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on the snow reports for the area next season if we have a free weekend.
– The Glenshee Ski Centre
– “Come ON Daddy!”
– the river at Braemar
– ready for a roof down blast back down the A93 to Perth and beyond!