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Maf


Posts: 154
Joined: Feb 2007
Last Visited: 07:31
28th Oct 2020
Re: Funicular repair & Master Planning
Date Posted: 23.10hrs on Sun 11 Oct 20
Here's what I sent to my MSP

Dear Mr Carlaw,


As you are my MSP I am writing to you to find out what the Scottish Parliament is doing to rescue the Cairngorm Ski Area from its current unfortunate situation and restore it to its former glory as the premier Scottish ski area and the jewel in the Speyside tourist industry.†


I see that a further £20m funding has recently been approved,† but I am concerned that much of that will be squandered by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) with their misguided policies and intentions.†


As you may be aware, the funicular railway from the car park to the summit has been inoperable for a couple of years. This means beginners are restricted to the lower slopes and access to the more snow sure upper slopes is only possible using surface lifts. The congested lower slopes and more difficult access to the upper slopes have resulted in skiers staying away or going elsewhere. The necessary repairs to the funicular, which cost over £20m to build, are estimated at more than £10m, but are to go ahead partly because removing the funicular would cost more than the repairs.


The ski lifts belong to HIE and have been managed by several now defunct companies over the years. The management is now headed by Susan Smith from HIE. She was previously responsible for HIE oversight of the management of the ski area. Over the years HIE has presided over a slow but steady deterioration in the ski area, through deliberate policy and ineptitude. In the '90s there were 3 2man chairlifts and 11 surface lifts. Currently there is one broken funicular and 8 surface lifts, a loss of 6 working lifts.†


Only the smaller upper car park now has lifts running from it. In snowy weather the access road to this upper car park in Coire Cas is often blocked by drifting snow while the lower, less exposed Coire na Ciste car park remains accessible. On busy days the Cas car park is often full meaning customers are required to park in the Ciste and use the totally inadequate shuttle bus service to get to the lifts and any facilities whatsoever. Similarly, skiers using the lower slopes in Coire na Ciste must use the shuttle bus to return to the lifts.†


The ski lifts that have been closed/removed were of similar types and ages to lifts currently operating at other Scottish ski areas. Inadequate maintenance and deliberate policy appear to be the reasons for Cairngorm's loss. The ski area is sadly now a shadow of its former self.†


There has been huge investment of public funds in Cairngorm over the years, but much has been squandered. The funicular was a huge waste of money. It's uplift capacity is roughly equal to a single surface lift. Design faults mean the top station frequently gets blocked with snow in windy or snowy weather. It then is dug out by hand shovel, rather than by machine, before it can be used. For the same money a cabin lift plus one or maybe two high speed chairlifts could have been built. Each of these would carry more than twice the number of people the funicular can carry. That is more than 6 times the uplift for the same money ! Using second hand, yet still comparatively modern lifts could have reduced the costs further. Money was also spent on removing lifts from the mountain, funds which should have gone to repairs and maintenance to keep the lifts running.


HIE's various management arrangements have repeatedly failed to maintain operations and the arms length companies themselves have gone bust. The recent† Natural Retreats episode also involved some very dubious accounting to extract money from the Mountain to American holding companies. I believe it is time to transfer ownership and operations to some sort of community ownership. The Speyside community is full of business people who know all about the ski industry and the wider tourist economy that it supports. HIE have shown they are not up to the job.


HIE seem to want to turn the ski area into a visitor centre, snow playpark and cafe experience rather than a proper ski area. In my opinion the priorities should be :-


Improve the ski lifts


Improve snowmaking


Then improve the cafe offering


Then deal with the funicular.


I have written to† Susan Smith of HIE several times on these issues as well as to Charlotte Wright of HIE and the Natural Retreats head of Cairngorm Mountain Limited, seemingly to little avail. I have also written to Fergus Ewing when he was responsible for this area but he did not even reply until several weeks later I contacted the First Minister to say I had written but had not got a reply. Strangely,† Mr Ewing responded the very next day.


I hope you can raise this issue and help to ensure that this latest £20m is not wasted on reinstating the ill-conceived and poorly designed vanity project called the funicular, but rather is invested in appropriate, modern, high capacity uplift that can rejuvenate the area with a lasting investment snow users, mountain bikers, walkers and tourists will flock to use and the country can be proud of.


Yours sincerely,†


Maf


Posts: 154
Joined: Feb 2007
Last Visited: 07:31
28th Oct 2020
Re: Funicular repair & Master Planning
Date Posted: 23.33hrs on Sun 11 Oct 20
Later on I sent :-

Several large European ski resorts e.g. Ellmau and Bad Hofgastein, have recently replaced their funiculars with modern highspeed, high capacity 10 man gondola lifts.† These can operate in high winds, are wheelchair accessible and can take mountain bikes. They are usually constructed in about 8 months over the summer.


HIE & CML seem unwilling to consider what is happening anywhere abroad other than USA. Austria are the leaders in the field. Looking at what they have done provides a very quick and easy way to see what is possible, how long it takes and even approximate costs. Most people over there even speak English ! I can't understand why HIE continually ignore this source of information, advice and assistance.†


Thanks again,


Maf


Posts: 154
Joined: Feb 2007
Last Visited: 07:31
28th Oct 2020
Re: Funicular repair & Master Planning
Date Posted: 23.52hrs on Sun 11 Oct 20
See here for details of new lifts in Europe

[www.skiresort.info]

If Serbia can invest in two very long bubbles and Montenegro can build a 1.5km detatchable chair, why can't we get our act together and make similar investments ?
WeeSam


Posts: 99
Joined: Sep 2014
Last Visited: 17:47
30th Oct 2020
Re: Funicular repair & Master Planning
Date Posted: 16.25hrs on Mon 12 Oct 20
The answer is easy.

It's Scotland, not Serbia or Montenegro.



Scotland leads the world in petty bureaucracy, mismanagement, fcking things up and grasping defeat from the jaws of victory.


If you asked whether Scotland or "random country" was going to successfully complete and run an infrastructure project, it would nearly always be the random country.


Further, when you consider how important the tourist dollar is to Scotland it beggars belief at just how ramshackle, dowdy, out-dated, amateurish and downright hostile the tourist sector is. The average Scottish tourist spot makes Fawlty Towers look like the Casino at Monte Carlo.



Does my head in.



Edited 1 times. Last edit at 16.28hrs Mon 12 Oct 20 by WeeSam.
Maf


Posts: 154
Joined: Feb 2007
Last Visited: 07:31
28th Oct 2020
Re: Funicular repair & Master Planning
Date Posted: 20.20hrs on Mon 12 Oct 20
Ellmau invested £21m in 2015 to completely remove the Hartkaiser funicular and replace it with a state of the art 10man gondola. Completely wheelchair accessible, heated seats and able to take mountain bikes in summer. This suggests HIE have not got a good deal if they can only repair their white elephant and do some cafe works top & bottom for the same money.
Maf


Posts: 154
Joined: Feb 2007
Last Visited: 07:31
28th Oct 2020
Re: Funicular repair & Master Planning
Date Posted: 22.09hrs on Mon 12 Oct 20
All Alan's parkwatch stuff is very sensible. It would be fantastic if any of his suggestions came to pass nevermind all of them. Unfortunately we have HIE looming over Scottish snowsports. As long as they have signicant influence I am not optimistic for positive developments. Charlotte Wright, Susan Smith and Ms Janssen have presided over the steady decline of Cairngorm. Thank goodness they haven't had much to do with the other ski areas.

If you look at what even small ski areas in Austria or the Italian Dolomites have it is depressing. 100% snow making coverage and modern lifts, a combination that gives guaranteed snowsports from Christmas to Easter every year.
Maf


Posts: 154
Joined: Feb 2007
Last Visited: 07:31
28th Oct 2020
Re: Funicular repair & Master Planning
Date Posted: 07.04hrs on Wed 14 Oct 20
Here's what I sent to Fergus Ewing, the Minister responsible for HIE & tourism. I copied it to the First Minister (in my experience Mr Ewing fails to respond) and my MSP. If you want action, send something similar to them. The more mail they get, the more likely they will do something sensible.

Dear Mr Ewing,


I have read several news items connected to the on going Cairngorm funicular debacle, including a great deal of obfuscation and misinformation from HIE.


A simple solution is to build a gondola instead here is a real life example :-


Skiwelt spent Ä15.5m in 2019 replacing the Zinsberg 4man detatchable chair with a state of the art 10 man bubble/8 man chair combi bahn. This is a better comparator to the Funicular repair.


In terms of removing the funicular† I suggest the approach suggested on the post Highland and Islandís business case and the decision to repair the funicular†(appeared first on parkswatchscotland.) I.e. "A far more sensible option would to level the pillars to just below ground height and allow vegetation to grow back over them.† HIE applied that very technique to removal of the Coire na Ciste lifts and it cost a princely total of £163;267k.† The funicular, of course, has far more pillars, but it appears likely the funicular could be removed for a few £163;million.†† The staff at HIE must (k)now this but failed to say so."


What are you going to do about it ?


Yours sincerely,†


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