As I left work, I sent Jodes a text: ‘HOLIDAY O CLOCK’. By the time I got home she had already packed for our nine day road trip around Scotland! A short while later we were convoying north from Glasgow with a group of mates, Jo’s Go Pro set up on the dashboard.
We arrived at Loch Insh about 10pm and spent about half an hour driving around in the dark trying to figure out which log cabin was ours. It was awesome when we found it though and we had a nice evening eating pizza and excitedly anticipating the weekend of snow action ahead.
The next morning we awoke to news that the mountain nearest Loch Insh/Aviemore, Cairngorm Mountain, was closed due to bad weather. Dilemna. As we had egg and bacon toasties we discussed alternatives such as mountain biking or just exploring, as the Loch Insh area is super pretty. In the end, we found out that a ski resort called Lecht was open, so we headed across Cairngorms National Park for an hour to there. It was cold and blustery on the windy roads to Lecht and opening the door at the car park, we all shivered. We hired boards, boots and salopettes and bought lift passes. There were no lessons available so one of our group who spent six ski seasons as an instructor went over the basics with us on the baby slope. He taught me how to link turns by push/pulling my toes up and down which made a huge difference. Unlike Austria 2007 and New Zealand 2013, I actually felt confident and, crucially, in control. The hardest part of the day was getting used to the button lift. There were some ‘You’ve Been Framed’ moments a I fell over repeatedly at first.
For lunch we had mulled wine (of course) and a sausage roll before heading back out. After a bit we decided to go up the chairlift, an experience Jo never got to try at Cardrona in New Zealand because she hurt herself. Since then, she’s bounced back at Lecht and was sliding with confidence and control. She was delighted to get off the chairlift safely, too. Her approach? Just sitting down on the board and sliding off that way. Well, it worked for her…
At the bottom of the last run, having kept pretty dry all day, I landed bum first in a puddle of icy slush. Fantastic. We got changed and drove back to our cabin where we had a brilliant evening of board games, lasagne and beer.
The following day we woke to news that Cairngorm Mountain was open so we packed up, cleaned up, ate croissants and drove to Aviemore. From there we drove into the spectacular mountain range next door. Cairngorm National Park has eight of the UK’s nine highest peaks and the region is something to behold.
We hired the kit and got in the funicular railway up the mountain. Some of the green runs (the easy ones) were shut but we found one and headed down it. The snow was vastly superior to at Lecht the day before: powdery and easy to compact into snowballs! Jo and I were both increasing in confidence rapidly. It was a long run and there was plenty of wide space to practise on.
We got the railway straight back up and stepped off into some serious winter weather. We took a red run (slightly harder) this time and I felt confident on a slope steeper than I’d dreamed of ever feeling confident on 48 hours earlier. It gave us a great chance to play with Jodes’ Go Pro on the slopes! At the bottom we had lunch and then got the railway back up again.
This time when we stepped off, we were greeted by… a blizzard. The snow bit my face and by the time we were a quarter of the way down it was thick and swirling like the inside of a well-shaken snow-globe. It was difficult to practise good technique at speed in those conditions.
Further down, we emerged from the clouds a bit and took some pictures of the epic icy precipitation. We got changed at the bottom and headed north. It was time to explore Scotland properly…
Our first stop was Loch Ness, where we stopped to photograph the majestic Uruqhart Castle. Our accommodation that night was a ‘pod’, a kind of seven foot high wooden tent with an electric heater and light, at Cannich, near Glen Affric. The owner was lovely and showed us great places to explore nearby on a map. We settled down in our ‘glamping’ pod for the night and reflected on our first experience of snowboarding in Scotland.
They may not be as fashionable as the Alps or as big as many European resorts, or even Cardrona in New Zealand, but Scottish ski resorts are well worth a visit. Firstly, they are very affordable and convenient, especially if you already live in Scotland. Also, they are great for beginners. Whilst probably not the pro’s region of choice, Scotland offers novices plenty of not-too-steep, wide runs to practise on. And it’s perfectly possible to go with mates just for a day or weekend from Edinburgh or Glasgow. You’ll have a wicked time doing it, I promise.
Next time: Scotland’s Stunning North Coast