The Cairngorm funicular was closed due to structural problems in 2018 and has not operated since. No estimated cost of repairs has been made public, and it is not known when (or if) it will reopen, though it has been confirmed is unlikely to be until next year. The company operating the resort also went into receivership in 2018 (as had its predecessor some years before).
Cairngorm Mountain is currently run by CMSL, a company owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise. HIE commissioned a report into the future of Cairngorm last year – the SE Report (details) – which recommended new developments including a “mountain coaster” and a “zip-line tour” to run as summer attractions on the mountain. ATV tours are beginning in July.
We are a group of local residents and businesses who are concerned at plans for the future development of the “Cairngorm Mountain” ski centre.
What do we think?
1. Theme-park style development is inappropriate for such an exposed site
Whilst we are not opposed to roller-coasters, zip lines, ATV rides and other theme-park style attractions, they are far more suited to more sheltered locations at lower altitudes, where they are less prominent visually, and much less affected by poor weather.
2. The site is a key hub for existing outdoor recreation
Visitor surveys have shown that the four main factors that attract visitors to come to the Cairngorms National Park are i) scenery, ii) walking and hill-walking, iii) experience on previous visits and iv) peace and quiet. The Cairngorm car park is one of the most important locations for hillwalkers in all Scotland, as well as for climbers in the Northern Corries. It is also a place many visitors drive up to just to enjoy the landscape and views. These visitors are looking to experience nature and wildness and these qualities will be further reduced by the proposed developments. Some visitors will be deterred. The developments planned should be kept for sites where they will not affect other visitor groups.
3. The site is in a poor state and its natural qualities should be enhanced
The Cairngorm car park and the ski infrastructure has been poorly maintained. The new snow making equipment has been very badly sited, and the whole area currently looks a mess for summer visitors, which can only contribute them wanting to either quickly leave on their walks, or head back down the hill, avoiding spending time at the site. We would like to see the whole area around the car park enhanced and made attractive once more, fitting with it being a showplace at the heart of the nation’s largest National Park. New, improved uplift for skiers should be constructed hand-in-hand with a restoration of the environment, including establishing montane scrub to help reduce adverse visual impact.
As the main gateway to the mountains, and overlooking much of the Cairngorms Connect ecological restoration area, the site should promote the value of the National Park to visitors.
4. The strategy of spending public money on summer attractions with the aim of generating a profit to subsidize winter losses is flawed
When the funicular was built, the idea was that it would generate a financial surplus in the summer which could then help fund winter skiing. In practice, the reverse was the case and financial losses from the funicular resulted in reductions in other skiing uplift. It seems that we are in danger of repeating the same failed strategy by building summer attractions like a rollercoaster for which there is no evidence of visitor demand at this site.
If public funding can be secured, it should be used to fund developments – including uplift for skiing – that visitors, residents and local businesses actually want and need.
We have reached out to other groups across the strath with our concerns, including the National Park Authority – we strongly support their Working Principles for the future of Cairngorm. We’ve also spoken to the Cairngorm and Glenmore Development Trust who hope to take on ownership of the mountain for the community.
You can contact the Campaign for a Better Cairngorm via email on firstname.lastname@example.org
Quotes from members of our group:
“Any changes at Cairngorm need to be in harmony with the landscape, not turning it into a theme park.”Chris Townsend, outdoors writer and photographer, Grantown on Spey
“I think this is a totally inappropriate location for funfair-type developments. It would destroy the atmosphere that the vast majority of walkers and climbers come to the corries and the plateau to experience and enjoy.”Tim Hall, “Out in the Hills” guiding, Aviemore
“The funicular has drained all investment from ski uplift. Successive owners and management continue to follow a flawed plan to focus on summer attractions while removing winter uplift. Cairngorm should focus on the needs of winter sports visitors. Cairngorm has repeatedly failed while other Scottish winter sports centres have flourished.”Roy Brown, a keen skier from Carrbridge
“High on the mountain, exposed to the worst weather is simply the wrong place for family-fun style attractions. Instead they can be located on low ground or in forestry where they won’t be affected by the wind and won’t impact on the enjoyment of other visitors. In summer, Cairngorm currently looks a complete mess – it’s time to start providing the sort of environment and experience visitors expect to find at this key location at the heart of our National Park.”Paul Webster, Walkhighlands, Cromdale
“Given their track record, we have no faith in HIE making viable decisions on the future of Cairn Gorm. There are numerous potential projects throughout the Strath which could provide real benefit to the economy of the area. Let’s forget the fanciful ideas of a mountain roller coaster and focus for example on protecting and improving the fragile high streets of our towns and villages. HIE needs stop throwing money at Cairn Gorm just because it owns the land, and go back to its real role as a development agency.”Gordon Bulloch, Dulaig B&B, Grantown
I’m a freelance artist and worked at Cairngorm Mountain for over 12 years, driving the funicular, in customer services and being involved with delivering guided walks and talks to the public. I feel the area of environmental education was never fully explored; the site could be a major education and wilderness arts centre for the National Park. The over-development suggested would be detrimental to both the mountain and the ski centre. Wildness has got to be the major attraction, and education about the special habitats should be the major draw. We should be more realistic and creative about keeping the area financially viable.Sheena Wilson, artist, Boat of Garten
“’National Park’ is a global brand synonymous with wild nature and on Cairngorm, we have an opportunity to deliver on that brand. The mountain provides huge ecological, public health and far-reaching economic benefits and its future should surely be in keeping with the principles of Britain’s largest and wildest National Park.”Peter Cairns, Director of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, Kincraig