The Scotsman 17th Feb 2007
"It's all downhill for skiing at White Corries
WALK ON THE WILD SIDE
Driving across Rannoch Moor, the bulky Meall a' Bhùiridh soon comes into view, with the signposted White Corries ski centre at its base. My old hill notes state: "The chairlift, leading to the entrance of Coire Pollach, is all too evident from the A82 and while the hanging corrie is immediately hidden, the sudden appearance of ski tows and ancillary machinery may still come as a rude shock. The corrie looks at its worst in summer and in winter is noisy and crowded. There seems to be no good time to go."
However, the ski centre has now been mothballed - too little snow, too many disappointing seasons - and its future, and that of the rest of the Scottish skiing industry, looks bleak. Hillwalkers are normally not too sympathetic towards ski areas, but in this case, after some 50 consecutive winters, there is a genuine sadness at the closure of the birthplace of commercial skiing in Scotland.
At the time of writing, the car park, owned by Highland Council, has been placed on the open market, for sale or lease. Glencoe Mountain Resort Ltd, the company which took over the White Corries Chairlift Company after it went into receivership, has proposed a range of new developments, including a downhill mountain bike track, bunkhouse and chalet accommodation, as well as a dry ski slope. It would be much more difficult to run a ski centre at profit, and it is to be hoped that the derelict ski machinery and tows will be removed.
I do have fond memories of Meall a' Bhùiridh. My seventh Munro round party on 24 July 1999 was held there, the event filmed by Scottish Television as part of a series highlighting outdoor activities in Scotland. A helicopter had been hired for aerial shots, but alas I had picked a poor weather day, cold, windy and wet with cloud cover at 1,500ft, and that plan had to be scrapped. Having taken a ride on the chairlift into Coire Pollach, the unfit camera crew were able to film my friends and I disappearing into the mist, while they stayed behind. Offers of help to carry their equipment to the summit were declined on the grounds of insurance cover, no doubt genuine but a convenient excuse.
The programme was due to be shown a few weeks later, but I was warned that it might have to be re-scheduled because of some ill-timed football game, and that is what happened. Some time after I met an acquaintance who said he had seen the programme. Unable to sleep, he had got up and while having a coffee, switched on the TV, and there I was. One insomniac and probably hardly anyone else thus saw that first showing. The programme was repeated at a more respectable hour some weeks later. Film producers have not beckoned and I am still here.
Although at 3,635ft the highest point of the Black Mount, the line of hills on the west side of Rannoch Moor, Meall a' Bhùiridh lacks the grandeur of Creise or the graceful ridges of Stob Ghabhar to the south. It seems little more than an eastern spur of Creise.
From the rough summit pyramid of Meall a' Bhùiridh, a surprisingly small area above 900m, broad slopes, Leacann nam Braonan, sprawl NE and east to the Old Military Road and the West Highland Way. A stony north ridge, with steep, rough slopes above Càm Ghleann, leads to Creag Dhubh, the western rim of Coire Pollach. The name means hill of the roaring.
Meall a' Bhùiridh is useful for a short day if time is limited, though with the chairlift not operational, there is now no easy option for lazy hillwalkers.
You will need Ordnance Survey map 41, Ben Nevis, Fort William & Glen Coe.
The ski centre is reached from the A82 on the minor road past Blackrock Cottage. With a starting height of 370m and 11/2 miles to the top, this direct south-west approach is an easy day and many then descend the short west ridge to climb Creise.
The approach to Coire Pollach by the chairlift is obvious. From the corrie, follow the lines of ski tows, but as these pass through a craggy area it may be easier, certainly on descent on a misty day, to use the stony north ridge, but being alert to the sharp drop to Càm Ghleann.
Map: Ordnance Survey map 41 Ben Nevis, Fort William & Glen Coe
Distance: 3 miles
Terrain: Steep climb to ski slopes, then rockier to stony summit
Start point: White Corries ski centre car park
Time: 3 to 4 hours
Nearest village: Glencoe or Tyndrum
Nearest refreshment spot: Kings House Hotel"