In the past two years, as travel has been thwarted by the Covid pandemic, thoughts have turned to skiing in the UK. Ski resorts in England and Scotland are likely to remain on the radar as climate change affects global weather patterns and skiers and snowboarders start to rethink the way they travel and ski more sustainably — by flying less often.
While ski conditions are unpredictable in the UK, on a good day skiing here can rival runs in the Alps and provide an easy-access route to weekend skiing without getting on a plane.
So here we round up the best places to get your skiing and snowboarding kicks in the UK.
Sometimes referred to as the Scottish Three Valleys, Glenshee is the largest ski resort in Scotland — with 36 pistes and 22 lifts over 790 hectares spread over four mountains. The Aberdeenshire resort lies to the north of Spittal of Glenshee, in the southern Highlands of Scotland — with two main areas either side of the scenic A93 road. There are 40km of pisted runs, with eight greens, 13 blues, 13 reds and two black runs. Glenshee has three cafés on site to fuel you for a day’s riding — as well as a ski shop and ticket office.
Aonach Mòr, at 1221m and in the shadows of Ben Nevis with views down to the sea, is Scotland’s highest and possibly most scenic resort. It is also the newest, operating since 1989, with 20km of pistes and 12 lifts, all enjoying stunning vistas over the Western highlands.
Nevis Range has the only mountain gondola in the UK, and is just 10 minutes’ drive from Fort William. Some 50% of its runs are red, 15% black, 25% Blue and 10% green — with a good beginner area beside the gondola top station.
On a good day, the back Corries of the Nevis Range, with its seven marked itineraries, are considered by backcountry skiers to be the “gem” of Scottish skiing and offer some fantastic freeriding. If you know what you’re doing off-piste, take avalanche equipment with you and some strong legs to explore Coire Dubh, Coire an Lochan, Summit Coire and the West Face. There is one chair in the bowl but some walking back to the main ski area may be needed.
Close to Nevis Range on the west coast is Scotland’s oldest ski resort, Glencoe, which dates back to 1956. While conditions can be unpredictable, this resort generally enjoys better snow conditions than easterly resorts and skiers enjoy the mountains here sometimes into May — with the same spectacular scenery as Nevis Range.
The Meall A’Bhuiridh mountain (1070m) has natural gullies and hollows which offer up some fantastic skiing after a few snowstorms. While it’s the oldest ski resort in Scotland, it has been updated since it opens including investment in some decent snowmaking on its 20km of pistes. There are a good number of black and red challenging runs over the mountain, served by eight lifts. If conditions are really poor there is a dry slope for beginners right next to the car park.
One of the most well-known Scottish ski areas, sitting on Britain’s sixth highest mountain, Cairngorm Mountain is a year-round resort and home to some excellent beginner slopes. It has long enjoyed a reputation as the hub of Scottish skiing, with 30km of slopes, a freestyle park and a real “ski resort feeling” in the base of Aviemore, 11 miles away. Sadly, in recent years its funicular — the resort’s key lift — has been closed for maintenance, thwarting some of the fun. Opening date for the lift is currently set for autumn 2022.
Meanwhile, nine ski tows help skiers and snowboarders access the two north-facing corries — Coire Cas and Coire na Ciste — and more snowmaking has been installed in recent years to provide better skiing on the lower slopes.
The lowest-altitude ski resort in Scotland, The Lecht in Moray offers some of the UK’s best beginner skiing with guaranteed snow thanks to its recent investment in an all-weather TechnoAlpin snowfactory, which can produce artificial snow at any temperature. There are 18km of westerly facing slopes and 13 lifts — including a magic carpet — at an altitude of between 673m and 775m. Some 70% of its slopes are greens and blues, and there is a brilliant Day Lodge for warming up on cold days, serving food and offering ski hire.
For between five and 45 days each winter, Weardale Ski Club operates the longest lift-served ski run in England, 30 miles west of Durham in the north east of England. The north-facing bowl contains up to 34 routes in a snowy year, with unlimited off-piste terrain from the summit (650m) and several natural snow parks. There are two button tow lifts and a heated club lounge where skiers can picnic and warm up. Weardale opens at weekends and on Wednesdays when conditions allow, but if snow cover is good it will open at other times if enough volunteers are available to help.
This ski resort, operating since 1936, is set in the heart of the Lake District, next to Helvellyn, with a button tow offering skiers and snowboarders access to up to nine runs in the right conditions. You need to be a good, fit skier able to climb carrying your gear to get the most out of the skiing here in Cumbria. In good seasons, there can be up to 60 days of skiing and membership of the volunteer-run club is just £50 per year allowing skiers to go as often as they like — or you can buy a day pass for £30. There is a member’s hut on the mountain and separate flushing loo.