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Ski Sunday pays a visit to the Cairngorms

By Gavin Musgrove

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Ski Sunday paid a visit to Cairngorm Mountain in a show made prior to the lockdown. Pictured are presenters Chemmy Alcott and Ed Leigh.
Ski Sunday paid a visit to Cairngorm Mountain in a show made prior to the lockdown. Pictured are presenters Chemmy Alcott and Ed Leigh.

Cairngorm Mountain and the work of the Glenmore-based Scottish Avalanche Information Service both made an appearance on the BBC's Ski Sunday this evening.

With Scotland's ski resorts closed due to the Covid pandemic but great snow conditions, the popular snowsports show featured a piece on safety preparations for backcountry touring.

Despite the snow gates being shut at Glenmore, the keenest skiers and boarders have still be walking into the high tops to enjoy their sport and that's in additional to those who usually ski tour and splitboard.

Olympic Sochi 2014 bronze medal snowboarder and presenter Jenny Jones met with SAIS co-ordinator Mark Diggins to learn how avalanches can be triggered and how to stay safe in the mountains.

The pair ventured into the Cairngorms where Mr Diggins showed the Ski Sunday host how SAIS staff test the snow pack for potential weaknesses to help inform their daily reports over the winter.

He told her there are two places in the snow pack where avalanches can be be triggered.

Mr Diggins said: "These are in the layer and also the crack on the surface which is what people are more aware of but actually there is a lot more going on underneath. If a person is on the top they can affect a layer because of their weight beneath them and if their globe of affect coincides with a weak layer then that weak layer can fail."

Jones then met with fellow former GB snowboard star Lesley McKenna, Glenmore Lodge's head of training Ian Sherrington and colleague at the national outdoor training centre, Emma Holgate.

Ms Holgate went through the list of equipment that all backcountry tourers should be carrying with them.

This included an avalanche transceiver with at least one within the group, shovel and probe, both packed within easy reach.

Jones them met up with head of Caingorm Mountain Ski Patrol, Iain Cornfoot, who is also leader of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team.

He showed viewers what to do if a skier or snowboarder in their party or nearby was caught up in the worst case scenario.

Jones signed off from Cairngorm Mountain, saying: "It has been really useful refreshing my backcountry avalanche training... the key is to plan and read your avalanche and weather forecasts and keep reassessing the risk and be avalanche aware so whevever you go this winter have fun but be safe."

Introducing the feature recorded prior to lockdown, presenter Chemmy Alcott said back country touring was becoming more popular during the current ski resort closures in the UK and many parts of Europe.

Fellow presenter Ed Leigh said: "Earning your turns on a good day really is something special but it is not without risk."

Catch up with this evening's Ski Sunday on the BBC iPlayer here

Avalanche forecasts for the Cairngorms and Scotland's other main mountain ranges can be found here

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