Highlands & Islands

'Limited take up' of Scotland-Iceland snowsports offer

Glencoe Mountain earlier in March Image copyright Bruce Wilkinson/Ski-Scotland
Image caption Scotland's most recent ski season was stop-start with good conditions followed by milder conditions

A tourism initiative offering Scottish mountain ski centre season ticket holders free snowsports in Iceland had "limited take-up" in its first year.

The deal was launched last year and was described as a world first for the snowsports industry.

Ski-Scotland, which promotes winter pursuits, said the recent skis season in both Scotland and Iceland had proved to be problematic.

It also said the scheme would need time to become a success.

The initiative involves Scotland's CairnGorm Mountain, Glencoe Mountain, Glenshee, Nevis Range and The Lecht ski centres.

All nine of Iceland's snowsports centres are involved in the scheme, which was agreed at the North Atlantic Ski Areas' Association's 2016 conference.

Snow-how: Knowledge exchanged

Image copyright Getty Images

A spinoff of the first year of the initiative was the exchanging of ideas and experiences between Scottish and Icelandic professionals.

One of Glenshee's ski patrollers spent the winter season at Iceland's largest ski area, Hlíðarfjall near Akureyri, close to the Arctic Circle.

Glenshee's director Kate Hunter was also invited to visit and she travelled to Iceland both at the end of January to deliver a ski patrol clinic for local patrollers and again at Easter, the busiest time for the Icelandic ski areas.

Ms Hunter found several differences between Scottish and Icelandic skiing.

She said: "One, which was very noticeable, is the relaxed attitude of the Icelanders with only the chairlift and moving carpet actually being manned at quiet times.

"Ski hire is semi-automated and in the early winter, so far north, a lot of the skiing is under floodlights.

"They also have a very keen race-training programme."

The deal offers season ticket holders at all the Scottish and Icelandic ski areas the opportunity to ski or snowboard at any ski area in the other country.

It is also linked to Ski-Scotland's all-area season pass which covers all five Scottish mountain ski areas.

'No surprise'

Heather Negus, chairwoman of Ski-Scotland, said: "When this was agreed, we acknowledged that it would probably take a good few winters for interest to build up, based on good conditions in each country.

"Winter 2016-17 was problematic for both Icelandic and Scottish ski areas, with snowfalls frequently followed by mild weather.

"It is therefore no surprise that there was limited take-up of this offer in its first winter."

Image copyright Bruce Wilkinson/Ski-Scotland
Image caption Scotland's snowsports season has been lucrative in recent years with almost £30m generated in 2012-13

Customers of Glencoe Mountain and Glenshee inquired about what was available in Iceland, but it was not known how many of these enquiries resulted in skiers travelling, said Ski-Scotland.

Several ski touring enthusiasts did visit Iceland, but Ski-Scotland said that it seemed unlikely that they also skied at the recognised snowsports areas.

Scotland's most recent snowsports season was described as "challenging".

Fluctuating temperatures meant a stop-start season, with periods of heavy snow followed by milder conditions and melting snow.

However, the Scottish industry has enjoyed successful years recently.

In 2012-13 there were 290,996 skier days generating more than £29m for the economy.

The 2014-15 season involved 230,634 skier days, raising £23.2m.

It was also the first in years that all five of Scotland's outdoor ski centres opened for snowsports before Christmas.

A skier day means one person who skis or snowboards on one day. Many of the same people return to the slopes several times during the season.

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