(Strathspey & Badenoch Herald)
SNOWSPORT fans flocked to CairnGorm Mountain over the bank holiday weekend to enjoy some unusual May-time skiing at the resort.
A total of 840 skiers and 1,250 non-skiers made it up the mountain to take advantage of the fresh snow that fell at night during the long weekend.
Monday, May 3 was the last official weekday of skiing to take place this season. It has been described by CairnGorm Mountain chiefs as “the best season for 15 years”.
Skiers and snowboarders will still be able to take to the slopes at the weekends while the snow lasts and there is demand for the sport.
Two centimetres fell on the night of Saturday, May 1, and ski bosses are predicting that the snow could last on runs into June.
“As long as there is demand – at least 300 skiers and snowboarders each day – we will continue to offer skiing each weekend in May,” spokeswoman Tania Alliod said.
So far, 141,000 snowsport fans have hit the pistes at CairnGorm Mountain this season, compared with 65,000 visitors last year, which was well up on 2007/08 – the poorest season ever.
Snowsports are still possible at mid-mountain level on runs including the White Lady, M1, Coire Cas and the nursery slope area in the Ptarmigan Bowl.
Mrs Alliod said: “The bank holiday weekend saw a return to wintry conditions and CairnGorm Mountain has welcomed both skiing visitors and non-skiers, many of whom took the opportunity for some fun in the sledge park outside the top station.
“On Saturday we also hosted our first wedding ceremony of the season with 75 guests celebrating the wedding of Jenny and James Purse from Ayrshire.
“This winter has been a season of superlatives for the ski area, with vast snowfall combined with relatively stable weather conditions.
“Many of the public have followed the season enthusiastically on CairnGorm’s own website and on YouTube and Flickr sites.”
Mrs Alliod said some investment projects on the mountain were being considered, but she added: “All of the Scottish ski centres are reeling from the worst skiing season on record three years ago, so we are going to keep our feet on the ground because we don’t know what next year holds.”
To mark the success of the 2010 season, CairnGorm Mountain has put together an exhibition of more than 50 staff photographs as well as video footage documenting the ups and downs of the past few months, called The Big Freeze.
Mrs Alliod explained: “The public have been fascinated by the amount of snowfall and The Big Freeze exhibition is a response to this interest, displaying pictures taken by staff as they have gone about their daily business.
“Some of the pictures from the engineering and ski patrol team are taken during night shift and early morning. They offer a unique insight into the work that has taken place to get the ski area open and operational for the public.”
Since the mountain opened for the new season last November, snowsport fans have been able to enjoy 133 ski days whilst there have been 19 stormbound days.
In a season of staggering statistics, over one million tons of snow was shifted by staff from roads and the two car parks and train track. Twice as many operational staff hours have been worked as last season, bringing an employment boost to the area.
Scotland’s other ski resorts have now all closed.