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Snowsports touring and managed ski resorts

Snowsport touring and managed ski resorts - a code for backcountry skiers and boarders

A code of conduct to minimise impact:

  • Pay attention to warning signs and stay out of roped areas
  • Avoid travelling across or up pistes on foot or ski
  • Be aware of downhill skiers/boarders who have right of way
  • Stay clear of grooming machines – they operate 24 hrs and can have very long cables attached
  • Keep dogs under control and in sight at all times

If you are unsure where to go check with a member of staff for information on where to ski safely.

Keep reading for the full Snowsports Touring Code - please follow it and explore responsibly

Snowsport touring and managed ski resorts - a code for backcountry skiers and boarders
Snowsports touring (using skis or snow boards) is one of Scotland’s fastest growing mountain activities. More people than ever are moving away from managed resorts, skinning uphill and accessing more remote areas by ski or board.

Many snowsports tourers set off on their adventures from one of Scotland’s five managed ski areas: Nevis Range, Cairngorm, Glencoe, Glenshee and The Lecht. The resorts all welcome tourers and are keen to ensure this activity does not impact upon the safety and enjoyment of their downhill snowsports customers.

Under access legislation*, snowsports tourers only have access rights within managed resorts if they do not ‘interfere’ with the primary recreational activities (see below for more detail). 

The snowsports touring access code has been developed with our partners and the endorsement of resort managers and users to raise awareness of tourers’ access rights and responsibilities and help everyone enjoy their day out on the hill. 

This Code has been produced by Mountaineering Scotland and endorsed by:

  • Resort operations continue 24 hours a day including during bad weather and whether the area is open or closed. 
  • Respect any warning signs erected by the resorts, keep away from lift lines (even if they are closed) and stay out of roped off areas. Resorts are not as safe when they are closed. 
  • Be alert for snowmobiles, groomer cables and other equipment. Stay clear of all grooming machines – do not assume the operator can see you. 
  • Grooming machines operating at night use winch cat cables which are difficult to see and which may not be directly above the machine. Avoid the slopes where they are operating.
  • Be especially aware of other skiers and snowboarders approaching from above, changing weather conditions (it is Scotland after all) and poor visibility. Other skiers or snowboarders may not expect you to be there. 
  • Do not attempt to use a lift unless you have a valid lift ticket. Never get on a lift if it is unmanned as it might stop and not start again.
  • Ski areas produce artificial snow areas to provide a learning environment for ski schools. These areas can be compact and very busy and as such the resorts request ski tourers, in the interest of safety, to avoid these areas when in use and to follow alternate routing provided by the resorts.

Photo: Alistair Todd

  • Please respect the fact that the resorts have a business to run and the groomers take great pride in providing a quality experience for their paying customers. 
  • Try to plan your route to avoid crossing pistes or where this isn’t possible, minimise the amount of time doing so and be aware of downhill skiers  and snowboarders.
  • If there is no marked uphill route, please stay on the outside of the snow fence (walk if necessary).
  • Minimise damage to the freshly groomed runs; remember that after closing, the runs will have been prepared for the next day.
  • Consider where you might be leaving tracks and how it affects the piste. 
  • Minimise your impact. Do not dig snow holes within  resort boundaries (yes it really  has happened!). 
  • Keep dogs under close control at all times. Dogs can be seriously injured by skis or snowboards.

Photo: Alistair Todd

If you are unsure where to go within the resort area then please ask a member of staff or ski patrol. They will be happy to help and will have information on the best and safest conditions and areas to ski.

Photo: Alistair Todd

Section 6 para (1) (e) (ii) of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 states that “The land in respect of which access rights are not exercisable is land ……. which has been developed or set out ….. for a particular recreational purpose”.

However, Section 7 para (7) qualifies this statement and states that “Section 6 (1) (e) ….. prevents the exercise of access rights over land to which it applies only if - the land is being used for the purpose for which it has been developed or set out, and, in the case of land which is not a sports or playing field, the exercise of those rights would interfere with the recreational use to which the land is being put”

In other words, if touring is considered to be “interfering” with downhill snowsports, then access rights do not exist. However, in the majority of situations, it is unlikely that those who are accessing more remote areas will be interfering with the activities of the managed resorts. Tourers who use the pisted slopes to descend whilst the resort is open will not be interfering with the normal operations and therefore access rights do exist.

The Scottish Outdoor Access Code states that “active pursuits such as …..ski touring, ski mountaineering” are recreational purposes and are therefore included in the access rights.