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.