More than 50 years has past (along with several incarnations of the ski road, up CairnGorm) since a few of the pioneers first mooted a Glenmore Gondola.
A road that every winter presents an enormous and costly logistical nightmare to keep open, much to the frustration of skiers and boarders, esp. on those bluebird days, where the powder glistens in the sun across the mountain, but also lies many feet deep across the road. Costing CML tens of thousands of pounds a day in lost revenue when it happens peak season.
Modern cars simply add to the problems, wider tyres fail to dig through the snow sufficiently to bite the road and get traction to climb and lack of engine braking in the more fuel frugal newer cars render them like bob sleighs on the way down.
Coire Cas has long been the most popular point of access to the mountain core of the Cairngorms and it’s usage as such continues to rise in the era of the National Park. At present those who are not paying customers of CML benefit from CML’s operational outlay free of charge. With use of the Cas Carpark increasing for accessing the mountain range, the burden on the operating company increases, while total number of paying customers whom can be got on the mountain on a given day decreases. See debate over parking charges in Coire Cas.
Visitor survey’s indicate that the majority of people who drive up to Coire Cas, never spend a penny in the facilities on the mountain. With the closed system on the Funicular, the operating company’s ability to attract more folk to become paying customers is seriously limited. So to are the options to develop additional visitor attractions and lift served activities year round above the tree line.
Uniquely out of the five Scottish Snowsport Areas CairnGorm Mountain has the potential for meaningful upwards expansion, around 300ft of vertical which would give the Top Basin alone more vertical than the Lecht and almost match Glenshee. It would take the Cas Side vertical to the 2000ft mark.
The Daylodge itself is well up the mountain, sitting just over 1000ft above Loch Morlich, what if you could expand the Snowsports Area downhill too?
Downwards into a less hostile climate zone, to below the tree line where the Scots Pines would provide shelter from winter storms and where less sensitive ground would provide better potential for additional year round mountain activities below the worst of the weather on the high tops?
Rope way technology and planning has advanced hugely over these past 50 years, indeed even since the inception of the Nevis Range Gondola 22 years ago. Modern funitels are designed to operate up to 75mph, the limit on the Funicular is 70mph. Modern engineering designs has allowed in recent years for in-line curves in detachable grip chairlifts and mono cable gondolas, opening up the possibility for both a less exposed and less visually obtrusive lift line, carefully sighted from detailed modeling to minimize wind exposure, while locating individual lift towers to maximize the lift’s wind tolerance.
Detailed analysis by the then Cairngorm Chairlift Company in the 70s and 80s showed a strong inverse correlation between skier numbers and wind speeds, skier numbers drop of sharply on stormy days. It will not be the occasional winded off days from a gondola that will be the big money loser, it’s the present day situation when bluebird skies and deep fresh snow lie a couple of miles beyond the closed snow gates at Glenmore, when the queue on the road can stretch back to Aviemore.
Just some of the Benefits
A Gondola would mean all who take advantage of a high level access point at the Daylodge pay for the service provided. Indeed a Gondola could often get climbers in the depths of winter to the Daylodge earlier than is often possible with the road.
With a mid-station situated at the Sugar Bowl, the maximum flexibility for operations would be achieved. The lower section through the forest would very rarely be closed. While it’s interchange with various parts of the mountain path network provide additional options for lift assisted hiking, plus addtional various grades of lift served mountain biking in the forest.
In winter Coire Cas can be bustling, for much of the year though the sheer open expanse of the Cas car park and the manor in which it cuts across the contours of the mountain give it a rather bleak and unwelcoming appearance. The Cas car park is not a fitting arrival point to CairnGorm Mountain, and the principle point of access to the mountain core of the National Park.
Relocating the capacity of the Cas car park to Glenmore would allow an increase in overall capacity, while providing a much more pleasant arrival point, with a car park sympathetically laid out in the forest.
Having base facilities at Glenmore would also considerably ease many operational aspects. Office facilities would always be accessible. Ski hire could still hire equipment and the snowsports school still operate even if the mountain itself was stormbound. While on days when mountain operations are on hold in the morning, cars can be parked in the car parks, folk can be out making use of the facilities around Glenmore, spending money in the various businesses, plus operating company, rather than clogging up miles of ski road and bringing normal life to a grinding halt for those who live and work around Loch Morlich.
Could you really ski to Glenmore?
Plenty did in winters 2010 and 2011, exceptional you might say. Then consider this, downunder at Thredbo Australia, on average they managed 19 days skiing back down to Thredbo Village a season. Then came the snow making, the average now stands at over 100 days a season skiable back to the village.
Imagine rather than standing at a pair of closed for the day snowgates on a bluebird powder day, instead gliding through the tops of the Scots Pines, the glistening white panorama of Loch Morlich emerging into view as you climb to the edge of the forest. Imagine 100 days a season of riding back to your car, at Glenmore after 3000 vertical feet of descent on a trail close to 7km long.
That’s at least 101 reasons for the Glenmore Gondola.