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Plans lined up to turn Cairngorm Mountain into mountain biking destination


By Gavin Musgrove

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DUAL USE: The lower ski slopes will also be used for mountain biking if plans are approved.
DUAL USE: The lower ski slopes will also be used for mountain biking if plans are approved.

Aviemore and Glenmore Communty Trust has welcomed progress being made in adding mountain biking to the activities at Cairngorm Mountain.

A planning application for mountain biking at the resort will come forward early in the new year, while trials to allow people out onto the plateau could start later in 2022.

A family-friendly biking facility between the Day Lodge and mid-station will form the first plank of the masterplan agreed last summer to revive the resort’s fortunes.

AGCT director Mike Gale said: "This is fantastic news and it’s something that our community has been pushing for for a long time now and this helped form the Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust's original masterplan so we are really pleased to see this eventually being actioned.

"Our community has a diverse, strong and unique culture born from adventure and a passion for winter sports.

"In the future I urge the government to listen and engage with our community at an earlier stage to help protect our very unique culture."

Unlocking Cairngorm Mountain’s true potential will be a ‘marathon rather than a sprint’, it was warned at the end of May as the long awaited blueprint for the next 25 years of the resort was finally unveiled.

Now owner Highlands and Islands Enterprise is about to embark on the first steps.

DAVE MACLEOD: In charge of Cairngorm project for HIE.
DAVE MACLEOD: In charge of Cairngorm project for HIE.

David Macleod, HIE’s head of property and infrastructure, told the Strathy: “The focus of the work we have been doing this past year has been on the mountain biking and the evolution of the Section 50 agreement for the Ptarmigan in terms of accessing the plateau.

“The mountain biking is a product we believe we can deliver fairly quickly and is one which we think has a lot of support in the community.

“We have been carrying out a lot of stakeholder engagement this year to work through some of the obvious challenges due to the sensitive environment and how we monitor people using the facility.”

HIE has been working closely with Developing Mountain Biking in Scotland.

Mr Macleod said: “We think it is an exciting project for the resort and the wider community.

“The focus has been with DMBS’ advice and support to focus on a family-friendly facility which will be complementary to the other mountain biking activity in the local area.”

Mr Macleod is hopeful plans can be submitted early in the new year.

BIG HIT: Mountain biking has become a big money earner at Nevis Range and is a host venue for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.
BIG HIT: Mountain biking has become a big money earner at Nevis Range and is a host venue for the UCI Mountain Bike World Cup.

The mountain biking will use existing facilities and the ski slopes by the Day Lodge within the primary activity zone agreed in the masterplan.

Mr Macleod said: “There is potential for some new uplift for younger age groups with older more experienced riders able to make their own way up the hill.”

This will comprise magic carpets which can also be used for wintersports. The funicular could also provide uplift once in operation.

Several trails around one kilometre in length are in the pipeline but Mr Macleod did not want to go into detail prior to the planning application.

The stakeholders involved in the on-going biking discussions are also the signatories of the resort’s visitor management plan (VMP) – Highland Council, NatureScot and Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd as well as the Cairngorms National Park Authority.

Mr Macleod said: “These discussions (on the VMP) have been running parallel and we are really pleased with the collaborative nature and the feedback.

“We are most definitely in a situation where people are working together and trying to find solutions rather than creating difficulties...”

“What we are working towards is some trials to see whether we can evolve the Section 50 so people can get out of the Ptarmigan station without being guided so they can go out on their own."

UP FOR REVIEW: There are expected to be trials in 2022 for opening access to visitors onto the Cairngorm plateau without being on a guided walk.
UP FOR REVIEW: There are expected to be trials in 2022 for opening access to visitors onto the Cairngorm plateau without being on a guided walk.

HIE has stressed that wintersports remain an important part of the business whilst the industry is viable.

There has also been a pledge by HIE to review options for future resort ownership.

Aviemore and Glenmore Community Trust was set up as a bid by the community to take control of the hill, however, the funicular being out of operation hampered efforts. It is due to return to service next winter.

In the meantime the trust has opened and is running a successful ice rink operation at the Macdonald Aviemore Resort with funds from the public sector and its own efforts as well as donations in kind from the local business community.


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