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alan


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CairnGorm - Dryslope plans called in by CNPA
Date Posted: 20.38hrs on Tue 23 May 17

^proposed wrap around extension to the Ptarmigan Top Station Building.

Last week Scottish Natural Heritage released over 150 pages of documentation under Freedom of Information relating to the proposals by CairnGorm Mountain Ltd which is now part of Natural Retreats for developments on CairnGorm Mountain which will be funded by a 4million loan from the public purse via Highlands and Islands Enterprise. These plans are not finalised, as a formal planning application is yet to be submitted.




A selection of images from the FOI released documentation are included in the Facebook Album we've created at:

[www.facebook.com] .

The full 150 pages worth of documentation can be viewed at:

[www.winterhighland.info] .

[www.winterhighland.info] .





Edited 4 times. Last edit at 21.24hrs Mon 26 Mar 18 by alan.

Attachments: ptarmigan.jpg (38kB)   funicular.jpg (58kB)  
some frustrated skier


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Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 20.59hrs on Tue 23 May 17
WTF, is that the best that they can come up with?

A techno tunnel and a walkway.

No sign of maximising on-hill catering (shieling renovation)

So clear that Winter sports is the profit maker and always has been.

Summer trade is a nice to have

alan


Posts: 10750
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Last Visited: 23:28
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Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 21.08hrs on Tue 23 May 17
Of interest and concern to the snowsports community is the intention to invest 4m of public money to 'target non winter amenities'.

More generally there has to be a debate about investing a large sum of money on expanding the Ptarmigan building when a stated objective is to reduce the weather dependency of the business. The front and side section of the wrap around could be done with little ground disturbance and negligible increase in visual obtrusiveness of the building, but the whole design is in stark contrast to the existing squat building dug into the hillside to minimise exposure to prevailing winds with a reported design wind speed of 215mph.

If the Funicular is unable to run due to wind, snow accumulation, zero visibility or because road access is not possible all the way to Coire Cas then it does not matter how much the Ptarmigan capacity is expanded and the offering improved, it brings in no income if closed.

Even in summer the cloud base frequently sits below the Top Station level, an issue that was raised by numerous individuals and groups during the planning of the Funicular. A look back at archive data for the 2015, 2014 and 2013 summer season (taken to be May-September) at lunchtime (1pm) on average the Ptarmigan Restaurant is in cloud 34% of the days - a fraction over one third. This compares to the Daylodge being in cloud on less than 2% of days.

Massively expanding the Ptarmigan Restaurant suggests tunnel vision on boosting Funicular numbers over seeing the bigger picture of making CairnGorm Mountain as a whole a successful year round destination.

The plans make no mention of enhancing snowsports infrastructure and facilities. As an example, if instead some of the loan capital being offered was invested in snowmaking on the lower slopes so it was possible to ride to the Daylodge for the bulk of most seasons, that would greatly help in spreading around catering demand to various elevations of the mountain. Thus reducing or probably removing the need to increase the size of the Ptarmigan building.

Given the sensitivity of the ground and severity of climate increase with altitude, more building upgrade for your buck should be possible at lower elevations.

The one snowsports offering proposed is two fairly short dry slopes a wider 60m long nursery slope to be situated behind the Cas Carpark and an adjacent 100m narrower progression slope behind the Base Station (which visualisations show being across the Daylodge Poma and run).



Save the Ciste has proposed a potential neveplast slope in the lower section of Coire na Ciste on an East facing aspect. While the proposed Ciste location would be sheltered by CairnGorm standards and not visible from outwith Coire na Ciste, the proposed slope location in Coire Cas by the Daylodge Poma is both fully exposed to prevailing winds and visually prominent from a wide area well beyond the base facilities in Coire Cas.

The documentation released by SNH shows that Natural Retreats propose a snowflex slope. Snowflex slope structure contains an integral misting system which must be on to wet the carpet like mat for the slope to be used, thus we believe renders the surface unsuitable for this location. Also due to the misting system and underlay structures it's not possible to drive a piste basher over the slope even when snow covered. It is for these reasons that neveplast has the majority of market share where artificial slopes are laid in existing snowsports areas.

A further issue with the proposed snowflex slope is that the CNPA planning officers have stated that the solid nature of the mat make the white or bright green colours it is available in unsuitable for such a visually prominent location on CairnGorm Mountain.



Edited 3 times. Last edit at 21.16hrs Tue 23 May 17 by alan.

Attachments: DLdryslope.jpg (98kB)  
Graham


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Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 22.16hrs on Tue 23 May 17
I have only scan read the documents but my first reaction is that it is astonishing that having acknowledge that the majority of their visitors are coming to Cairngorm for winter sports ........ there is no consideration of significant improvements to uplift, access to the mountain's skiing gem (Coire na Cite) or support for the contribution made by all the other winter mountaineering visitors (climbing, walking and ski touring).

I for one have voted with my feet, having been a regular visitor to Cairngorm up to 2002'ish the rapid decline in uplift, the removal of the access/broadwalks to/from Coire Laogh Mor and he abandonment of the Ciste meant there was little to attract and I don't I have been back more than three times since.

Quite apart from the Save the Ciste proposals, they have completely missed the boat on serving the mountaineering community (accommodation, early access to the mountain etc)

Until they address re-opening the Coire na Ciste side of the mountain fully and realise the winter visitors (skiers and mountaineers) are their prime customers than I can only see further decline.

Skicadets


Guest
Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 13.03hrs on Wed 16 Aug 17
There is an article about it on bbc news

telenord


Guest
Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 14.08hrs on Wed 16 Aug 17
My take is that Highlands and Islands Enterprise have been led by a report on climate change suggesting that there will be no viable ski business on Cairngorm by 2050. As one of their main aims is to "deliver sustainable growth across the region" (www.hie.co.uk) then their plans for investment of taxpayer monies at Cairngorm does not heavily lean toward snowsport provision. Their beliefs justified the building of the Funicular and concentration upon summer visitors and is now leading future investment plans toward buildings and a dry ski slope. Such a policy may seem superficially justifiable but fails to take the following into account:

1. There is no indication that climate warming will lead to many more snowless winters on Cairngorm. It is possible that storms arriving with greater frequency and strength may well produce more, rather than less, accumulations. The winter of (from memory) 2012-2013 saw very little snowfall below about 500m, yet the snowline remained at the Cas car park for a long period with very substantial accumulations above. This was also the case in (for instance) Norway where Lillehammer received little snow but Nordsetter and Sjusjoen higher up had huge falls which buried huts.

2. Climate change over the last decade has been fickle. For some time global warming appeared to cease or its growth reduced.

3. No weight is given to improvements of snow-making systems. It is now possible to make snow in temperatures as high as +20C, although efficiency improves as temperatures fall. These machines cost around 0.5m and require electric and water infrastructure. Why not invest in these?

4.Summer visitors to Cairngorm tend not to repeat their visit. Winter snowsport enthusiasts provide repeat business day-by-day and season-by-season. By all means develop sustainable and environmental activities in the summer, but never forget that winter is the main paymaster.

5. A dry ski slope seems a reasonable idea but its proposed location (at the base of the Day Lodge Poma) is very exposed and would involve substantial ground works to produce a counter-slope required for user safety. The slope material should not rely upon a misting system for its glide characteristics because of the prevalence of frost. I suggest "Proslope" for its relative cheapness, good glide, and safety (no diamonds between the bristles to catch a thumb. Preferred locations would be beside the Ptarmigan or the Shieling rope tow.



alan


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Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 14.33hrs on Wed 16 Aug 17
The BBC piece is short: [www.bbc.co.uk]

There will be a drop in session on the afternoon of Wednesday 23rd August at the Base Station on CairnGorm showing the plans for the dryslope. An opportunity for face to face feedback on the dry slope plans and other aspects of what's going on at CairnGorm.



bogbiker


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Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 18.28hrs on Wed 16 Aug 17
alan Wrote:
The BBC piece is short:

There will be a drop in session on the afternoon of Wednesday 23rd August at the Base Station on CairnGorm showing the plans for the dryslope. An opportunity for face to face feedback on the dry slope plans and other aspects of what's going on at CairnGorm.



Do you have the time for the drop in session Alan?

CML's recent Facebook post on the news of the dry ski slope has been met with a lot of criticism. Oddly the don't appear to be deleting comments unless 'offensive'...

alan


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Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 18.58hrs on Wed 16 Aug 17
bogbiker Wrote:
Do you have the time for the drop in session Alan?


Noon to 5pm on Wed 23rd August.

tim1mw


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Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 22.01hrs on Wed 16 Aug 17
I'm a firm believer in climate change, but it doesn't follow that this means the end of snow sports (or significant natural snow cover) in Scotland. Some of the predictions suggest a slackening of the gulf stream, which will actually make Northern Europe colder. So they are basing their business plan on a long term prediction for the future that could be radically wrong. Climate change is happening, but the result of it is far from certain.

Furthermore 2050 is still 33 years in the future, alpine resorts consider the "normal" lifespan of a lift to be less than that and a typical business would expect to get a decent return on investment in considerably less than 33 years! So even if the predictions HIE are working on are 100% correct, there is still a good business case for building new ski infrastructure now and making money from it while it is still possible. Also, the chair lifts are dual purpose and can carry summer visitors and mountain users. By the time we get to the 2040's the funicular could be life expired with an expensive refurbishment due, a chairlift would be a much cheaper proposition to retain access to the Ptarmigan.

It's clear that the Scottish government understands this logic (even if HIE don't), if my analysis was wrong there would have been no business case for the grants which have paid for new lifts at Glencoe and Glenshee and other upgrade work. Government is not awash with money and there will have been some hard headed assessment carried out before the grants were agreed.

alan


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Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 23.56hrs on Wed 16 Aug 17
A substantial amount has been spent on the Top Basin and Cas T-bars since Natural Retreats took over (HIE money I might add).

Given past statements to season ticket holders about the FRP and M1 Poma already being effectively life expired, it is difficult not to conclude that by the end of the NAIL lease over the CML shareholding that HIE envisages just enough ski area to justify keeping the Funicular on the mountain.

That would be the Ptarmigan and Ciste T-bars plus maybe Coire Cas. By the end of the NAIL lease the Funicular will be approaching the end of the expected life of the rolling stock and drive system, with a ski area potentially consisting of the Top Basin and the Cas T-bar which by then will be 76 years old.

It was said if you can't ski on Coire Cas, you probably couldn't ski in Scotland. The natural snow holding, terrain suitable for a wide range of abilities and an upline sharing the natural snow field make it an ideal candidate for snowmaking. New control cables for safety circuits were trenched in under the T-bar 2 summers ago, absolutely nothing that could help with snowmaking went in the trench.

Doug_Bryce


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Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 21.01hrs on Thu 17 Aug 17
Summary : 4 million public money on more retail and a dry slope eye rolling smiley

Coire Cas isn't the appropriate location for either activity. Could write a long essay about how misguided this is - however it is pointless. Basically another desperate attempt to make the train profitable (when the real problem is that people cant get out at the top - thus restricting summer trade).

If people want to ride dry slope then they are much better facilities in the central belt and Aberdeen. No one goes to the Cairngorms to ride dryslope...

Retail is actually an anti investment in the area - as it can only take trade away from the shops in Aviemore.

Insanity.



Edited 1 times. Last edit at 21.08hrs Thu 17 Aug 17 by Doug_Bryce.

tim1mw


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Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 10.05hrs on Tue 22 Aug 17
Why they think that letting people out of the top station at Cairngorm is a problem is a total mystery to me, there has never been such a proposal on Snowdon even when Hafod Eryri was built. The chances are that very few people will venture very far.

One possible solution would be to limit the time that normal visitors are allowed to spend at the top, this happens on Snowdon since you have pre-allocated seats for both the ascent and descent, so you if don't want to walk down, you have to be on the train at your allocated time. During normal operations you only get 30 minutes at the summit, considering the size of the queues for the catering on a good day, I suspect that most of the revenue from the summit comes from walkers.

CG could perhaps do it a little differently by charging a supplement to visitors wanting to spend more than say an hour at the summit building. Give them long enough to see the view and but a meal then send them down again. The money from the supplement could go to footpath maintenance.

As regards the current bizarre strategy of investing in lifts at the other 4 areas while trashing CG (admittedly, not by the same agency). It almost makes you wonder if somebody "high up" has decided that the market will no longer support 5 ski areas and that one of them "has to go" (or at least be considerably reduced in scope) in order to enable them to demonstrate that the lift infrastructure investment at the other 4 was a "success".

The other possibility is that because CG is much higher profile, reducing capacity there while improving things elsewhere is a backhanded way of keeping the environmental lobby quite. From a pure uplift capacity point of view the new lifts at GC and GS probably match what is being lost at CG by not putting the Ciste back into action, so you solve a political problem by shifting skiing away from the flagship which the environmental lobby will always complain to places where it will attract less controversy.

Doug_Bryce


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Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 10.29hrs on Tue 22 Aug 17
Quote:
Why they think that letting people out of the top station at Cairngorm is a problem is a total mystery to me


The VMP rules were a specific condition of the funicular funding (so outwith Cairngorms control). FWIW - I personally think the rules are reasonable. The sub-arctic plateau is a very fragile environment. The ground and fauna would be easily damaged by hoards of people using the train for quick access to Cairngorm / Ben Macdui summits. Of course most of them would likely stay near the top station - but a small percentage would certainly use the lift to venture further afield. Erosion and litter would increase and wildlife would be displaced. Sensible adjustments have been made to the rules - for example guided walks to the top. Plus if you walk up you can get the train down. However I don't believe getting rid of the rules would be progress.

Now : It is clear that the Coire na Ciste Chairlifts were seen as a threat to the funicular - primarily because they provided alternative passenger access outwith the VMP rules. The decision to take them out of operation was deliberate and calculated.

The obvious problem with the funicular VMP is that it inherently restricts repeat summer trade. However rather than acknowledge this limitation it seems HIE / CML keep plowing public money in attempt to make the funicular a financial success. In reality a more sensible investment would be lower level lifts that allow recreational and sporting use of the mountain (as opposed to a summit level tourist attraction / cafe).

IMHO something radical is required. A Glenmore gondola would be ideal for attracting repeat summer custom. Or even better an electric railway from Aviemore to Coire Cas. Close the road and make Glenmore and Loch Morlich a car free zone. Have regular train stops for hikers, bikers and skiers. Could be a world class national park that all of Scotland could be proud of.



Edited 1 times. Last edit at 10.31hrs Tue 22 Aug 17 by Doug_Bryce.

Dirtboarder


Guest
Re: CairnGorm - Natural Retreats development proposals
Date Posted: 12.19hrs on Tue 22 Aug 17
Why is this going to attract more people?
What is unique about it? Where is the selling point?

Why would people travel to Cairgorm to go to a restaurant?
Perhaps it will be famous for the amazing food at reasonable prices? LOL!

So not only do they lose the dedicated snow sports fans because they don't invest in the infrastructure (not to mention all the other reasons we love CML) but also any new visitors have no reason to return. Why would they?
If by some chance they do return will they be attracted by the Dry Ski Slope, the restaurant and shops or for the majesty of the mountain which is there anyway and does not require a visit to the shop or restaurant?

The only analogy I can think of is going fishing with the best rod money can buy but without any bait on the hook. Why would the fishies bite?

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