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Snow sports touring – where to go

by Ian Sherrington (IFMGA Guide & Chief Instructor at Glenmore Lodge)

If you have the talent and the desire, just about anywhere that holds snow is skiable these days. That said, most of us look at our mountains in a particular way as ski tourers.

My home area of the Cairngorms provides a fantastic combination of features that make it a regular favourite with tourers. Accessed from Aviemore via the ski road, our starting point for a tour is already at 650 meters and therefore likely to hold snow through the winter.

The high plateau of the National Park is the largest area of arctic mountain landscape in the UK. It has given consistent touring possibilities even through some challenging winters.

A classic tour from the ski area car park will see you onto the plateau in a little over an hour. As the views to the south reveal themselves you will gaze across Loch Avon to the granite tors of Beinn Mheadhoin, and beyond to Deeside and Lochnager.

The hard work being done, you can choose from a variety of routes, the big day out being to get across to Ben Macdui (Scotland’s second highest peak) and ski or board some of her slopes.

These mountains are well shaped for snow sports touring. Although vast, many of their flanks are rounded with open slopes at good skiing angles. There are open gullies facing a variety of directions ensuring that somewhere will be filled with fresh, stable snow. The trick is to work out where.

For those of you that make it to Ben Macdui you will have reached the heart of the Cairngorms. Although a popular venue, during the week you can still find yourself sharing the plateau with just a handful of adventurers.

Of course there are many more mountains which make great venues for snow sport touring trips.

Rik Higham's excellent Scottish Ski Touring website has a large number of routes mapped and graded.

The classic SMC guide 'Ski Mountaineering in Scotland' is long out of print, but a new edition is said to be in the pipeline and is worth looking out for.

Heading up onto the Cairngorm plateau. Photo by Heather Morning