Skiing may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to Scotland but the Scottish Highlands is in fact home to five ski resorts. The extent of the terrain might not compare to the Alps, but it does serve up just enough variety to keep any skier or snowboarder satisfied. To help you decide which one to visit, we've skied these resorts over and over again to give you our best ski resorts in Scotland.
Planning a trip
Planning a skiing holiday in Scotland isn’t like planning a trip to the Rockies or the Alps. Thanks to a changeable, maritime climate, snow is unreliable and there’s no guaranteeing the weather: a beautiful bluebird morning can immediately be followed by torrential rain or a howling gale (or both!). You’ll need to plan alternative options in case of bad weather – think of it as a holiday with some skiing on the side. The ski centers are also small and have little or no accommodation at their lift base, so consider a central town with access to multiple areas. A car is pretty much essential no matter what you choose.
Where to stay
In the east, Aviemore (Scotland’s closest answer to a ski “resort”) has easy access to CairnGorm and the Lecht, good low-level walking trails and an excellent nearby safari park. Braemar is a decent base for the Lecht and Glenshee, though there’s not much to do locally during winter apart from walking.
To the west, Fort William has a reputation for being the outdoor capital of the UK, set at the foot of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain. Nevis Range is a stone’s throw away and Glencoe isn’t much further, including the valley itself (of James Bond fame).
Snow conditions and weather often differ greatly between west and east. Basing yourself somewhere along the central spine of the country perhaps gives you the highest chance of getting some decent skiing in, even if it involves more driving. Inverness is the capital of the Highlands and is centrally based for CairnGorm, the Lecht and Nevis Range. Loch Ness is within easy reach for monster-spotting. Further south, the Fair City of Perth puts you close enough to Glenshee and Glencoe, and Edinburgh is little more than an hour’s drive away.
When to go
Conditions permitting, the ski areas are generally open from late December to early April, though skiing in November and May isn’t unheard of. January to March often have the best conditions; March probably gives the best balance of decent weather, snow and longer daylight hours, and it’s not a bad time to visit Scotland in general. Try to avoid weekends and holiday periods (especially Christmas, New Year and February half term), when holidaymakers flock to Aviemore and thousands more drive up from Edinburgh and Glasgow as day trippers.