Snowsports in Scotland can be unpredictable – and intoxicating. If you love it, you will love it with every infuriated piece of your snow loving soul. It. Is. Magic.
You can see the passion for snowsports throughout winter and into spring – an army of blue jackets swarm at Cairngorm Mountain. From the bairns to the big kids of Cairngorm Ski Club and Cairngorm Snowboard Club, these guys are invested…ski boots are cumbersome, skis and boards clumsy to carry, the weather can be brutal…but the draw of the mountain, the promise of one day nailing the White Lady, of being one of the cool kids who lands a 360…is too much to resist; these kids love it!
The need to slide at speed on Scottish snow isn’t new…skiing was first recorded in Scotland in 1892 but it really took off in the 1960’s, and there are now third or even fourth generation skiers taking to the slopes. It is part of the identity of the Highlands and one that can be embraced across the National Park at The Lecht, Glenshee and Cairngorm Mountain.
The pioneers of Scottish Snowsports were a passionate, hardy and brave bunch – none more so than James McIntosh, or ‘Tosh’ as he was usually called. Tosh was a local lad who grew up on the slopes, he was one of the first true pioneers of Scottish Snowsports and a founding father of The Lecht in 1977, alongside Pieter Du-pon and co directors Jim Petrie and Ronald Winram. This is a superb spot, especially for beginners, which is exactly what Tosh set out to achieve. Many wee skiers have had their first time on skis at The Lecht; it has a special place in the heart of many a snow loving soul.
Glenshee was born out of the same kind of raw passion as The Lecht – a group of enthusiasts who had caught the bug in Europe came back to Scotland and built a rudimentary but revolutionary tow rope driven by the rear wheels of a tractor. This set more wheels in motion, the Dundee Ski Club built the first T-Bar tow on Meall Odhar in 1957 and an agreement was later made to lease the land from Invercauld Estate; today Glenshee is the largest ski resort in Scotland.
Cairngorm Mountain has been a top spot for skiers since the mid 1950’s with its first ski lift opened in 1961. 2023 is set to be a cracking year for Cairngorm Mountain – the funicular has reopened and THE BRITS, sponsored by one of Aviemore’s original snowsports retailers, Ellis Brigham…IS BACK!
The UK Freestyle Snowboard and Freeski scene was pioneered in the late 1980’s and early 90’s by a crowd who were as enthusiastic as the generation before. The Brits has been a fundamental part of the scene since 1990; it pits professional athletes against amateur athletes, whilst retaining an open-door policy for anyone wishing to give-it-a-go. The event is iconic.
The Brits first took place on Cairngorm Mountain in 1991; it’s a place that has alway looked after freestyle, creating the first halfpipe that year, seven years before snowboarding debuted at the Olympics.
The roots of the huge successes the GB Park and Pipe team have experienced in the last few Olympics and other huge international events can be traced back to these early events of the 1990’s. Many of the guys who were competing in the early days will enjoy a hefty dose of nostalgia as they get back on the mountain where it all kicked off.
Lesley McKenna is one of the kids who felt inspiration back in the day, inspiration that took her to the top of the game with Olympic and International Competition – Lesley knows the impact seeing and getting stuck into these events has.
UpBattle is the biggest splitboarding event in the UK and celebrates its 10th anniversary at Cairngorm Mountain in March. It’s hosted by Jonny Barr who competed back in 1991. This is a familiar tale…the faces of the 90’s will be well and truly invested into The Brits homecoming – a celebration of where UK snowsports have been…and where they are going.