Ignore the naysayers: Scotland is a match for the Alps when it comes to ski holidays

lucy in Glencoe
A keen skier shares the things she learnt on a maiden ski trip to Scotland

‘It’s not worth the long journey,’ ‘there’s no snow’ and ‘why go there when you can go to the Alps’ were just some of the comments I received when I floated the question about skiing in Scotland with friends and family. Even in the comments box below a recent article, following record snowfall in the Highlands, many Telegraph readers were sceptical三级成人视频 about the thought of staying on British soil for a day of snow sports. 

Despite this I was still intrigued by the allure of the unknown, the back-to-basics reputation of the resorts and the idea of being able to support our local British ski industry.

三级成人视频While a lot of the comments sent my way are valid, many are just common misconceptions. Here’s what I learnt after skiing at Glencoe Mountain Resort in February.

1. ‘There won’t be any snow’

Let’s begin with the most obvious elephant in the room. Historical snow reports confirm that Scotland is by no means the most reliable destination for snow, and in 2019 the country reported one of the worst ski seasons on record. However, when it does snow, which it has done in abundance recently, then the depths can rival those in some of the Alps’ biggest winter destinations. Like any ski resort, two factors impact snow cover in Scotland: strong winds and warm temperatures. So it’s important to check the forecast and daily reports before travelling. If (and when) the snow does stick around it can fall thick and fast – on our visit to Glencoe runs at the top of the mountain were layered in ankle-deep powder and the summit depth was close to two metres.

2. ‘You can’t plan in advance’

Unlike an annual pilgrimage to the Alps, a ski trip to Scotland relies on a certain level of spontaneity and willingness to pack the car, book a hotel or jump on the train at the last minute. Check the snow forecasts, read the resort’s daily bulletins and follow the action on social media. This is the best way to gage how conditions are shaping up, what lifts and pistes will be open and whether you need to submit that last-minute holiday request. Our decision to visit Glencoe was made the day before (Tuesday for a Wednesday visit), but by looking at the forecast many others were able to plan in advance for the weekend ahead as it was almost certain the snow was going to stick around.

Glencoe is two hours north of Glasgow

3. ‘The resorts are tiny’

Glenshee is Scotland’s largest resort with 36 runs, Nevis Range and CairnGorm Mountain both have 32, while Glencoe Mountain has 21 and Lecht, 20. While individually the resort are significantly smaller than anything most British skiers and snowboarders will have experienced in the Alps, combined the areas cover a total 130km – that’s the equivalent of the ski area in Alta Badia in Italy (130km) and more than in Cortina d’Ampezzo (120km), the resort set to co-host the Winter Olympics in 2026. With a car, which is almost essential for getting to any resort in Scotland, it is possible to visit all five in one multi-day trip, with the longest drive between two resorts (Lecht in the east to Glencoe in the west) being roughly 3 hours. 

For a day’s skiing, the 20km of pistes at Glencoe Mountain was plenty to keep myself and my boyfriend entertained, especially as the continued snowfall meant each run was topped up with fresh powder throughout the day. Admittedly, skiing in Scotland isn’t for those looking to clock up serious mileage, but for those happy with exploring a varied ski area, with off-piste options, and aren’t afraid to repeat the same runs a few times it comfortably fits the bill.

4. ‘The lifts are really old and slow’

Yes, there are T-bar and button lifts in abundance and the chairlifts have seen better days, but head to a lesser-known resort in British Columbia, a local ski hill in the USA or an off-the-beaten track destination in Eastern Europe and you’ll find a similar set up. I quickly realised, as I ascending to the top of Glencoe’s ski area on the Main Basin T-Bar tow, skiing at Scottish resorts isn’t about gadgets, gizmos and glitzy gondolas (but. don’t get me wrong I love a heated seat when there’s one available). It’s about the simplistic pleasure of being in nature, taking in the landscape, sliding down the mountains and the adrenaline that comes with those fresh tracks. It’s skiing in its simplest form.

5. ‘It’s only for experts’

Thanks to recent investment in snow making facilities, including artificial snow factories that make the stuff inside giant containers at the side of the pistes, no matter what the temperature outside, the low-altitude beginner slopes at Scottish ski resorts are often the ones that can be kept open the longest. Of Glencoe’s 21 slopes, six are green for beginners and it’s a similar ratio in other resorts. As well as a number of ski instructors out on private lessons, on our visit to Glencoe a number of schools were also in attendance, using the nursery slopes for race training. Watching the youngsters fly down the mountain, clipping the gates as they passed by, it was clear to see why Scotland has been the breeding ground for some of Great Britain’s biggest snow-sport stars, including Graham and Martin Bell, who grew up skiing on CairnGorm mountain. 

6. ‘Getting there takes too long’

Unless you live locally, travelling to Scotland is a commitment, but if you plan your journey well and embrace its road-trip nature it can be very rewarding. The A82 road, which heads north out of Glasgow and weaves around Loch Lomond into the Highlands beyond, was quite simply one of the most spectacular drives of my life and well worth the 3am alarm. With the snow-capped mountains getting ever closer, the road meanders peacefully down the shore of the 23-mile loch. Time it well and you can see sunrise (or set) over the rippling water. Further south, heading up (or down) the M6 motorway you pass through some of England’s most stunning landscapes including the entire length of the Lake District and the Scottish border region. If catching the train from London, the is a good option. Departing London Euston at 9:15pm (Monday to Friday), 8:59pm (Saturday) and 8:27pm (Sunday) you arrive the next morning in Fort William at 9:57am after a night spent racing across the country. From Fort William you’re just 15 minute’s drive from the Nevis Range ski resort. 

7. ‘The slopes are crowded’

While reports do often surface of long queues and overcrowded car parks on days when Scotland’s ski resorts are blessed with snow, on our mid-week visit we experienced neither of these and were often treated with empty runs. We found ourselves on Glencoe’s The Wall red run in limited visibility, wondering if we’d gone off course – but then appeared a piste basher. As it passed us we were left with perfectly groomed powder snow to enjoy all by ourselves. Grinning like Cheshire cats, we quickly hurried back down to the lift and did the same lap again, before anyone else discovered our bounty.

When the weather clears the views are outstanding

8. ‘The weather’s dreadful’

If you’re a fair-weather skier who only ventures out of the chalet if the sun’s shining and the mercury is above freezing then skiing in Scotland might not be for you. Sunshine, wind and snow – we experienced it all during our visit to Glencoe, quickly understanding why so many people had told us you need to be brave to ski in the Highlands. But in between snow showers, the clear views of the surrounding Rannoch Moor, which stretched for miles into the distance, were worth the tingling feeling of cold on our cheeks. Scotland was home to William Wallace, Braveheart, after all, so be prepared to embody his warrior spirit and you’ll have a bonny day on the slopes.

9. ‘The mountains are flat’

Glencoe is home to some of Scotland’s most challenging slopes, including the Spring Run red piste and Flypaper, the UK’s steepest black run. After a thigh-burning descent of the latter, made more so by the ankle-deep snow, we were glad of the meandering green runs that then lead down to the lifts and eventually down to the car park. Across the ski area the terrain was littered with bumps of powder, varying gradients and tricky corridors to navigate. While the beginner areas三级成人视频 are fit for their purpose we found the rest of the mountain offered us, intermediate and expert skiers, plenty of challenges to test our skills.

10. ‘It doesn’t compare to the Alps in anyway’

Scotland versus the Alps is a hard battle to draw as both offer such different experiences. However, skiers and snowboarders with a sense of wanderlust will enjoy the adventure skiing in Scotland offers – it’s a break from the often predictable nature of purpose-built resorts and ski areas many will have visited numerous times before.

Undeniably the infrastructure is a lot more basic than the Alps, the weather is arguably less reliable and the ski areas much smaller, but a ski trip to Scotland brings a whole new, and in my opinion totally worthwhile, experience to the rich tapestry that is life as a skier or snowboarder.