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Planners recommend go-ahead for re-profiling of Cairngorms' lower ski slopes

By Gavin Musgrove

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The go-ahead has been recommended for engineering works to smooth and re-grade the lower slopes of Cairngorm Mountain so that they can hold man-made and natural snow better.

Cairngorms National Park Authority’s planning committee members will consider the application tomorrow when they meet in Boat of Garten Community Hall.

The proposal has sparked the latest in a long running series of rows between the community, business and conservationists over developments on the hill.

Ski bosses had hoped the works would be completed in time for this winter.

But Scottish Environment Protection Agency put in a last minute objection to the application in the early Autumn because of the lack of information on groundwater terrestrial ecosystems. It has now withdrawn its concerns after a survey was carried out.

The resort operators have described the work as “critical to maximise the potential of snowmaking on the lowest pistes”.

Helen and Simon Coker, from Boat of Garten, on the opening day of the new ski season on Saturday. Ski bosses want to re-profile the lower slopes partly pictured in the background.
Helen and Simon Coker, from Boat of Garten, on the opening day of the new ski season on Saturday. Ski bosses want to re-profile the lower slopes partly pictured in the background.

Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd has said if the work is approved the amount of produced snow to get the beginners area into operation “will be reduced, creating a wider area of usable snow in a shorter time”. It will also save on costs and be more energy efficient.

The development site by the Day Lodge covers a length of approximately 470 metres of the lowest mountain piste. The work entails infilling around 94 cubic metres of hollows and cutting away 161 cubic metres of current ground.

The application site lies within the Cairngorms National Scenic Area but is not covered by any other specific environmental designations.

In her report, CNPA planning officer Stephanie Wade states: “Aviemore Community Council supports the application.

“They note that skiing plays a very important role in the economic development of the strath with the survival of communities in the area depending upon the continuing activity of skiing as a tourist attraction which can bring a great deal of money and employment.”

Fifteen letters of representation have been received – five in favour and nine objections.

The Cairngorm Ski Trust and Aviemore-based ski school Free Ski are amongst those in support. The benefits, they cite, will be a safer, wider slope for learners and more work for ski instructors.

Objectors include the Cairngorms Campaign and North East Mountain Trust. Their concerns include:

* disturbance of peat on the proposed site may lead to the release of carbon dioxide;

* the potential of increasing flood risk;

* impact on species including dotterel, ring ouzel, snow bunting, mountain bumblebee, ptarmigan and water voles.

But planners conclude that better snow holding capacity and management of snow in this area is “clearly consistent and compatible with the existing use and operational efficiency of the existing business” and there will be no adverse environmental impacts.

The planning meeting in Boat of Garten starts at 12.30pm tomorrow.

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