Scotland's five mountain ski resorts are the ideal, close to home venues if you've always fancied trying skiing or boarding, but weren't quite sure how or where to get started. Read on to get all the essential information you need to hit the slopes safely.
How do I get started?
First, check the ski conditions and choose which snowsport centre you plan to visit. All the areas have great beginners' slopes so why not head to your nearest centre?
Contact the centre and book a beginners package. These include your lift pass, skis or snowboard and lessons. At Glenshee you will need to book these separately.
Come properly kitted out in a jacket, salopettes, hat, gloves, sports sunglasses or goggles and plenty of layers. If you prefer, you can check if you can hire a ski suit from the resort that you're visiting.
It is usually required for children who join a group lesson to be at least seven years old. This may vary so please check with the resort you're planning to visit. Some areas have special classes for very young kids, and even offer family tuition.
Most resorts also offer other activities, such as sledging, as a fun alternative for both the young and young at heart!
What do the ski areas offer?
The ski areas offer great value for money and a great day out amidst some of the best scenery in Scotland, as well as:
Take several layers and avoid cotton as it can be cold when wet and dries slowly.
Bring a water and wind-proof outer layer.
Wear warm, waterproof gloves or mittens.
Sports sun glasses or ski goggles and lip salve are useful to take with you.
Adults and children should wear helmets.
At some resorts it's possible to hire out a ski suits, and all offer helmet, boot, ski and snowboard hire.
When's best to come?
When ski conditions look good! The weather is very changeable, but usually best from January to April, so make sure that you are ready to plan quickly. Be aware that school holidays, such as February half term, can be busy. Converesly, midweek skiing during term time is generally much quieter.The weather can be better late in the season - ideal if you have very young children.
The season usually runs from December through to early April, but this varies depending on snowfall.
There's often good early snow in October and November in the eastern resorts of The Lecht and Glenshee. Further west, at the Nevis Range and Glencoe, there is a higher chance of good late snow, and it has been known to snow into May. CairnGorm Mountain Resort is central and often has both early and late snow.
Is snow guaranteed?
Unfortunately it is not possible to guarantee snow in Scotland, in fact few other wintersports countries guarantee this either. You can check the snow conditions for up-to-date information.
All the Scottish ski areas now have snowmaking facilities, and some also have dry slopes. There's also a vast range of other activities to choose from locally, if the hill is stormbound or snow conditions are poor.
What are the road conditions like in winter?
Thanks to modern and effective equipment the roads to the resorts are cleared quickly, even after heavy snowfall. However, roads do often close overnight for safety and open early next morning. Make sure that you check the road conditions before you go.
Who updates the snow & road reports and when?
The ski reports are updated by each ski centre during the season. They are updated early morning, late afternoon, and more often as required. The live webcams show real time conditions. Please be aware that early in the season it's still dark in the early morning and therefore the snow conditions cannot be properly assessed until sunrise.
Are there rules to learn?
Yes, the Skiers Code of Practice is displayed at each ski area and your instructor will also cover this. The rules should be followed to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
Ski patrollers can withdraw lift passes of those who break the rules, are behaving badly or dangerously.
Is skiing dangerous?
Skiing is no more dangerous than other outdoor sports. If you're reasonably fit and active, do some gentle warm-up exercises, and listen to your instructor, then there's nothing to fear. The Scottish ski areas have low accident rates compared to other wintersports countries.
What if there is an accident?
Minor injuries are dealt with by ski patrol at first aid posts on the mountain - marked on the piste maps (maps which show the skiing and boarding runs and uplift routes of each ski resort). The cost of first aid and/or mountain rescue is included in your lift pass.