South Scotland

Lowther Hills Ski Club 'could thrive' with government help

Skiing at Lowther Hill Image copyright Ross Dolder
Image caption The Lowther Hills Ski Club sits on the boundary of Dumfries and Galloway and South Lanarkshire

The south of Scotland's only ski centre could thrive if it received the same government support as its rivals in the north, it has been claimed.

Volunteers who run the Lowther Hills Ski Club believe that, with improved facilities, they could draw hundreds of snowsports fans to the region.

Chairman Anjo Abelaira said they needed Scottish government backing for their ambitious plans for the region.

A government spokesman encouraged the club to hold talks with sportscotland.

The club wants to develop the area around Wanlockhead and Leadhills as the outdoor capital of the south of Scotland.

Image copyright Ross Dolder
Image caption Members of the ski club enjoyed 20 days of snowsports on the hill last winter

Over the past 12 months volunteers have installed a ski tow, engine hut, webcams and a temporary clubhouse building on the Lowther Hill.

Last winter club members enjoyed 20 days skiing on the hill and beginners were invited to learn to ski on a nursery slope in Leadhills.

Although the club received £5,000 from a nearby windfarm developer, most of the facilities were developed by recycling old equipment, crowdfunding, and accepting donations of hardware and labour.

In contrast, four ski centres in the north of Scotland invested a total of £5.5m in their equipment earlier this year.

About 75% of the funding for the Glenshee, Lecht, Glencoe and Nevis Range facilities, came from government economic development agencies Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise.

Mr Abelaira said: "We have a very driven and skilled team of people, as well as a massive community support that will keep working until this area is finally recognised as south of Scotland's outdoor capital.

"With our limited means, it will take us at least a decade to get there.

"If the Scottish government was willing to treat us as well as they treat other Highland ski centres, our area (one of Scotland's most deprived areas) would see real sustainable development and community empowerment happening much quicker."

Image copyright Ross Dolder
Image caption The development of snowsports facilities could boost the economy of Upper Nithsdale, the club believes

The group believes the project could transform Upper Nithsdale, a deprived area of Dumfries and Galloway which, they claim, has suffered from long-term under-investment.

They have already heard anecdotal evidence that visitor numbers to the region have increased during the winter months since they began developing the snowsports facilities.

The club's predicament was drawn into sharp focus when their newly-installed clubhouse was destroyed in high winds in early December.

Committee member Ross Dolder said: "Some of the stuff we've had to use hasn't really been fit for purpose but needs must and we've mostly made it work."

Image copyright Ross Dolder
Image caption The temporary clubhouse was destroyed during Storm Desmond

He added: "The facilities we've developed so far in the Lowther Hills have been built through a community spiritedness that I've never seen before and so far without any taxpayer hand-outs.

"But we could do so much more for Dumfries and Galloway and south Lanarkshire if snow sports facilities in the south-west got their bit of help from central government too and help provide fit for purpose facilities and a boost for our own communities and our local economy along the way.

"Despite the setback from the storm that destroyed our temporary club hut, we'll get on with it as ever but that has brought it home how much we need external help and I think it's really central government that we need to look to now."

A Scottish government spokesman said: "We welcome the work Lowther Hills Ski Club is doing to encourage skiing in the south of Scotland.

"Sportscotland has already held discussions with Lowther Hills Ski Club and would encourage the club to continue its dialogue to assist in the development of their proposal and funding application

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