Ski Mountaineering in Scotland

Great days out on skis in Scotland

Have a look at the SMC publication of the same name and you’ll see the fantastic potential there is in Scotland.

Having just had an exceptional winter it’s easy to forget the poorer conditions of the past. Yet, even in recent years, snow conditions have been remarkably good and consistent from the end of February onwards, giving fantastic days ski-touring and filling in many of gullies, giving great potential for steep skiing.

Fresh tracks in mid May! Skiing past a frozen-in-place slab release


Where’s good?

The Cairngorms National Park

Accessed from valley base of Aviemore, the vast, high plateau of the Cairngorms holds snow well throughout the winter and the rolling slopes are great for straight forward tours if visibility is good. Even in leaner winters, the plateaux of Ben Macdui and of Braeriach hold the snow really well, and can always be relied upon to have ski-touring potential whatever the winter does.

A circuit of the Northern Corries and a journey to Ben Macdui both make for great ski-tours. On the western edge of the Cairngorms range, the Glen Feshie hills are also great for touring in. Achlean is a good access point for these tours, and for heading on to Braeriach. The stream gullies often hold snow well for your run back down.

Ski-lift access roads are also helpful further east, easing the access to the snow and cutting down the approach time. Starting from Glenshee, the local hills are rounded and heathery and can hold snow well. There are good ski-touring journeys to do either side of the ski area.

Creag Meagaidh and Aonach Mor

Both these big hills hold snow well, and they take the tourer on atmospheric journeys over high tops and through corries, with a great sense of grandeur and isolation. Perfect terrain for the tourer, where skis would definitely be the preferred mode of transport.

Descending the Moy Burn, Creag Meagaidh

Ben Wyvis and the Fannichs

Driving north-west from Inverness, Ben Wyvis is the big hill that dominates the horizion these are the hills that you will meet before dropping down to Loch Broom and Ullapool. Again, they are high and their inland location means the snow will hang around for longer. Another bonus is that these fine hills are grassy so they don’t need such a deep cover of snow to be skiable.

Drummocter Hills

Not such exciting hills in summer conditions but perfect for ski-touring in winter; the hills either side of the A9 are rounded and heathery, and have good options for short or longer tours. Easy access is a bonus, and the A9 is not noticeable once you get started.

Skiing the steeps?

A ski-tour is always more memorable when it culminates in a good descent. It doesn’t have to be steep, but as with most mountain activities, the more you do, the more new challenges wink at you!

When well filled-in, the accessible slopes around the Northern Corries and over the back at Aonach Mor are great for having all gradients of snow slope to practice on. Here you can build up your skills and confidence.

The view from the first notch, looking down Aladdin’s Couloir, northern Corries

It is good to get used to making turns on steeper terrain but know that you can still side-slip instead or return to being a mountaineer and get your crampons and axe out. Being happy in this environment is about you being in complete control. Nobody else should ultimately influence anything you do.

Many Scottish grade one gullies are great to ski down when they are filled with good snow. They can be more spacious and less steep that you might anticipate, although they can often have one section that can be more thought provoking!

Guiding Details

Guide to client ratio  1:2 to 1:4

Really getting back to mountaineering ratios as the ground gets more technical although many of the more snowier peaks described can work at 1:4.