|Photo credit: Helly Hansen and Ed Smith
Arnie Wilson visits Glenshee in Scotland
Rather than fly from Gatwick to Edinburgh, I opted to go to Glenshee by train via Perth just so I could gently – and slowly – relish the prospect of drifting ever north towards the long-ago memories I had of the beautiful peaks in the Cairngorms National Park.
Even having enjoyed most of the ski resorts in the Alps and the Rockies, I have always been a huge fan of Scotland’s bonny peaks in five ski areas which can look pretty impressive both in shape and size. And with lingering Covid restrictions of one kind or another, what a perfect time to chuff-chuff my way to revisit them.
OK, From Haywards Heath, West Sussex to Perth (via Kings Cross) is 498 miles (not quite as far as Perth, Australia to Sydney – 3,933 miles) but en route you get wonderful views of York, Berwick-on-Tweed and Edinburgh.
I was a guest of Helly Hansen, the Norwegian clothing and sports equipment manufacturer and the “HH” logo on my ski jacket was a pleasant reminder of my “HH” origins, which has long been my shorthand for my home in Haywards Heath!
A final taxi journey of less than an hour from Perth got me to the delightful Dalmunzie Castle, a delightful quintessential former Laird’s (Scottish landowner’s) mansion, turreted in Scots Baronial style standing proudly at the head of a 6500-acre estate dating back to 1510.
Nestled in the heart of Glenshee, the hotel is surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful mountains, glens and little rivers – yet less than two hours from Edinburgh airport.
Even Queen Victoria was impressed during a visit in 1848, en route to Balmoral! “It was so calm and so solitary” she wrote in her diary. “It all seemed to breathe freedom and peace, and to make one forget the world and its sad turmoils.”
Martin Bell, the ski racer who competed in four Winter Olympics and managed a very creditable eighth place in the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary – the best result for a male skier from the UK in Olympic history – spent many of his formative skiing years along with his brother Graham (five Olympics) in Scotland.
“I skied there for about eight years” he says – “roughly from age eight to 16.
“We mainly trained at Cairngorm, located at the heart of the Cairngorms National Park.”
Cairngorm, which has been welcoming skiers since the 1960s, has 30km of pisted runs, 11 surface lifts, good freestyle terrain and on-site equipment rental.
It’s close to the popular Highland resort town of Aviemore which offers plenty of accommodation and dining options. But the Bells skiing was caravan based!
“We parked at Loch Morlich campsite for the winter” says Bell. “We lived in Edinburgh and we went north every weekend to ski. We also went to Glenshee and Glencoe often for races. The Lecht and Nevis Range areas had not yet been built at that time.
“Over the course of a winter there you can get some pretty grim weather but always some excellent days too.”
Over in Glenshee, the ski terrain reaches the not inconsiderable altitude of 3,504 ft. From invitingly easy to the surprisingly steep, the UK’s premier ski centre, with the largest lift system (22 all told) serving 36 trails across three valleys and four mountains, offers the most extensive skiing and snowboarding in Scotland. Steeps and glades, pisted and un-pisted, open bowls and narrow gullies. No matter your ability, Glenshee’s mountains have something for every skier and snowboarder, from wide-open pistes in Thunderbowl and sheltered expanses over the back at Coire Fionn and Glas Maol, to the bumps, jumps and natural half-pipe of Meall Odhar to the testing Slalom Race Track at Cairnwell.
Experienced skiers can test their skills on two black runs: the celebrated mogul- strewn Tiger run and the run on the left-hand face of Glas Maol.
Thanks to HH, I and my fellow skiers were well protected from the chilly and sometimes sleeting Cairngorms early-March weather, but feeling snug meant we could make the most of some great slopes and not get too chilly on the various drag-lifts in the resort’s three valleys. And members of the excellent and professional Glenshee Ski Patrol were always on hand just in case!
Yes, it was great to be back on Scotland’s stirring and scenic slopes!
Click here to visit Glenshee website for more information
Click here for Visit Scotland/Glenshee
Arnie Wilson is the former Financial Times Ski Correspondent and former editor of the Ski Club of Great Britain’s magazine, Ski+board. In 1994 he skied for 365 consecutive days in the FT Round The World Ski Expedition. He has now skied in a total of 739 resorts- including all 38 USA skiing states, and 40 heliski operations in 14 countries