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Report advocates £27 million investment to turn CairnGorm Mountain into world-class resort

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Mountain Technology,

A report commissioned by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has recommended that CairnGorm Mountain in Scotland will require £27 million in investment as part of a five to ten year vision to create a world class year-round recreational resort.

HIE commissioned US consultancy firm, SE Group, to carry out an independent review of uplift infrastructure at the resort between February and September this year, which entailed a detailed analysis of current operations at Cairngorm, the market context and consultation with local business groups and public bodies.

The report proposes a number of measures in order to increase winter visits to 150 000 consistently, higher during peak years, increasing Cairngorm’s market share over time.

Uplift improvements are recommended to increase carrying capacity from the current 1600 to the resort’s full potential of 2700. This would be achieved by constructing two new chairlifts out of the Coire Cas base area; one with a 3200 people per hour (pph) lift capacity and a second with 3000 pph.

The proposed uplift improvements, along with snowmaking technology, could create an additional 30 hectares of skiing area.

The funicular, currently closed due to structural issues, is described in the report as unique to Cairngorm. It recommends that it should continue to be enhanced and, once new uplift is in place, be accessible to non-skiers and skiers alike.

To pivot the resort towards becoming an all-season destination, the consultants advocated installing a mountain coaster, a zipline tour and a lift-served mountain biking experience.

The review also explored the potential to reopen the second Cairngorm base at Coire na Ciste, but rejected the idea on the grounds that the resort doesn’t have a high enough skier capacity to justify the initial and ongoing operational costs.

Charlotte Wright, HIE Chief Executive, said: “We are extremely grateful to all those who took part in this study. It is an excellent piece of work that presents a long-term vision for Cairngorm, which will be used to prioritise future investment.

“Clearly £27 million, even over ten years, is a large investment for a single resort, and funding is often the most challenging of all obstacles. However, the report certainly gives us all something to work towards.

“We are determined that the vision for Cairngorm is a joint vision and that work towards achieving that vision is carried out jointly. To that end, an important aspect to all of this will be engagement with local business and community groups, politicians, public bodies and other stakeholders.”

Councillor Bill Lobban, local member and chair of the funicular response group, said: “The uplift review provides a fantastic, positive view of the potential future for Cairngorm. It will, no doubt, be a starting point for wide ranging discussions with the local community, businesses and stakeholders all of whom will have their own views as to how we take this crucially important business forward. Funding will not be easy but with the backing of the community this is something that together we can deliver. It’s our mountain so let’s make sure we work together to make it successful”

HIE is already in the process of buying snowmaking equipment for CairnGorm, following the agency Board’s approval last week for a £1 million investment.

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