Skiing in the Cairngorms

Snow-stalgia: It’s always been as much about the craic as the slide time…

Since the birth of Snowsports in Scotland it has always been as much about the social as it has about the skiing, even with the train out of action at Cairngorm this winter, there will still be plenty of time for chatting and sliding using the surface lifts…

In years gone by, before the first lifts were even installed, ski seekers were so dedicated to the sport that they would walk all the way to the summit, skis hoisted on their shoulders. Back then (according to historical records, this occurred from the 1890s) there was no high tech warm gear, so skiers would apparently hike up wearing tweed.

Even when the lifts were installed in 1960, long queues were the norm and seen as part and parcel of the social skiing scene.

Indeed, the queue for the rollercoaster-like two man chairlift, which arrived in 1961, was legendary for its long tail of skiers. But the excitement at the prospect of skiing, and the queue camaraderie over-rode the frustration and impatience (most of the time!).

Bear in mind, too, that these ski enthusiasts had often already queued in their cars, on the steep road leading up to Cairngorm, getting up well before first light in a bid to get a space at all.

With thousands of skiers on Cairngorm on busy weekends at this time (1980s), crowded slopes and bumping into fellow skiers was also an accepted part of the unique Scottish ski experience. Despite, these challenges, Scottish skiing was a much celebrated and aspirational holiday option, celebrated in many a glossy magazine.

Perhaps this skill for navigating a moving human slalom is one reason why Aviemore has historically produced so many snowsport Olympians! Certainly, if you could ski the crowded, often challenging conditions on Cairngorms, then any other resorts around the globe would seem like a piece of cake in comparison.

And another thing that has definitely improved over the years is the ski fashion and effectiveness of clothing and equipment. Remember the 80s style all-in-one outfits of clashing block colours? Celebrated here by a group from Loch Insh at the Cairngorms Winter Launch!

Or perhaps you remember this iconic photo of the man that did away with clothes completely, one bluebird day, which hung in the window of Aviemore Photographic, on the high street, for years? Or have you other mountain memories to share?

Get in touch on VisitCairngorms social media and share your Cairngorms snow-stalgia!

Time to make more Cairngorm Mountain snow memories!

To celebrate the arrival of the snow on the Cairngorms, we asked some attendees of our Winter Launch for their favourite mountain memories to inspire you to get out and make your own.

And a few magical mountain memories:

“When I was sitting at the top of the Cairngorms having a picnic and the reindeer herd went past. Then sunbathing later that day at the beach at Morlich!”


“Getting pushed down the mountain when I went on skis for the first time. Terrifying and fantastic!”


“Skiing last February, because I learnt to ski over 3-4 weeks.”


“Learning to snowboard with my uncle age 6 on the Ciste.”


“Skiing on midsummer’s day! We set up a rope tow. It was fantastic. Really special.”


“Working on ski patrol the year it started snowing and never stopped. We skied until 24th May.”


“Skiing the ciste gully in the year that Andy Murray won Wimbledon – we made it back for the 2nd half!”


“Running from Cairngorm car park up the mountain, along the tops of the corries above the clouds!”


“Sitting outside The Sheiling with a pie and a pint and watching the world go by.”


“Easter skiing with friends in ski school when the instructors took us over all the jumps through slushy snow. Hot, burnt faces at the end of the day!”


Follow us and tag us. #VisitCairngorms @VisitCairngorms with your memories.

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