It was unclear at the A&GCT AGM a few weeks back if the lift placements in the HIE video were the placements SE Group proposed in their document - know we know it is.
There was a fairly widespread feeling in the room that what was in the HIE video was a nonsense in terms of placement - 'right things in as wrong places as possible' to paraphrase one comment from memory.
There is a huge amount of info to digest in the document and lot of experience and research applied to potential options on CairnGorm, but it does seem clear it is done from a position of no real world experience of the mountain or understanding of how the topography interacts with the often severe weather.
That need not be a major issue if HIE listens locally and consults widely. The work done on the report can be tweaked making use of local knowledge and form a decent starting point - the most important point in the entire document is the acceptance that CairnGorm has been left behind and needs major investment to get snowsports capacity back.
However, I do have concerns that HIE were quite cute with some of the info provided to SE Group and they may have had a misleading impression of where Scottish snowsports as whole is at and on the reasons why we've gone from a gradual drift away from CairnGorm to reaching a point where there was an exodus and an unprecedented collapse in market share.
Take a look at this graph on page 11 - it has no year axis and is not current data and gives a misleading perspective on what is happening at the Scotland level.
A figure repeated throughout the document is that the carrying capacity of the mountain is 2700 riders per day. Where the calculation is explained in figure 17 on page 51 - it is expressly derived from the current standing uplift capacity / layout.
This significantly under estimates the capacity of the Ciste, and it could be argued that the removal of the chairs prior to this review prejudged the report not just from an engineering point of view but from lowering the calculated carrying capacity of the mountain.
Using detailed studies and methodology by Bob Clyde from the 70s the Ciste Chairlifts and terrain served would with the proposals put forward in 2016 by StC then modified and built on by the Community Trust in 2017 give an increase of 500 in carrying capacity of the hill.
Further the uplift reductions that have occurred over the past 10+ years are not addressed in the SE Groups calculations of the mountains capacity. Timed observations of uplift broadly verify the uplift per hour figures in the SE Group report and when compared to historic company documentation shows the uplift capacity today is 60% of what it was in 1994 (and 54% when Funicular mid stopping).
If the same methodology was applied to to the 1994 figure as the modern one the carrying capacity of the mountain arrived at would have been around 4500 riders per day. Indeed there is reference elsewhere in the report to the terrain capacity being >4000 riders per day.
Also the report doesn't consider the potential for base services in the Ciste which could not practically be provided at Coire Cas such as modest accommodation provision which could be a game changer for the business with minimal abstraction from the Strath. Campervans already park in numbers and microlodge style accommodation on site would have the potential to convert day trippers to weekend / short break stays (visitors that would be hard to convert into Aviemore stays as they would have to get in the car and drive anyway).
There are also a few contradictions which hint that 'he who pays the piper' principle may have been in effect here. It says in the case against the Ciste that out of base capacity is not an issue on CairnGorm, yet that it is a major problem is repeated numerous times through the document.
It's widely said that when you start to do a major overhaul of a snowsports area you should start at the bottom - hence an out of base chair as phase 1.
However the most critical issue on CairnGorm in recent years has been lack of mid-mountain uplift. While overall uplift capacity has reduced 40%, the mid-mountain capacity where most of the terrain that appeals to the majority of the visitors is has been reduced by 66% while being served by the 2 most challenging and steep surface lifts on the mountain.
Finally for now, back to mountain capacity and the often mentioned uplift inefficiencies. The assumptions and principles in the SE Group report would render Glenshee a complete basket case entity - but it is Glenshee not CairnGorm that is able to stand on it's own two feet today. The critical point being that Scottish Snowsports will always be highly opportunistic and Glenshee unlike CairnGorm still has the terrain and uplift capacity to make hay while the sun shines!
Edited 3 times. Last edit at 15.10hrs Tue 18 Dec 18 by alan.