Skiing in Scotland?

“Scotland – for skiing? Can you ski in Scotland?” People kept asking me the same question again and again, when I told them that we’ll be leaving for a Skitrip to Scotland.

The Scottish Highlands are a hidden, unknown jewel for ski touring and steep skiing. Nobody knows, except the locals and a few other crazy people including myself. There exists even a Scottish Offpiste Skiing book, written by Kenny Biggin about the skiing possibilities at Nevis Range and Ben Nevis. It is offering a great overview what the Terrain has to offer.

But why would you wanna go to Scotland if you have the Alps in front of the door? Good question. Why not?

Ready for a new adventure. So here we go. 8 days time and motivated to climb and ski Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Great Britain and find some other gullies to climb and ski. That was the aim.

The team – Teresa Brenner, skier and friend and Paul Masukowitz, photographer and friend.

Day 1. We arrived in Edinburgh late in the afternoon and it was pooring. Heavy rain but on the way to the Highlands, we had snow. Lots of snow. Seemed like it but it was late in the evening and dark outside. So we started motivated into the next day.

Day 2. A good weather day and this is how a good weather day in Scotland looks like:

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We started our day in the Nevis Range ski resort. Unfortunately when we got to the top station, the wind was already blowing very heavy and the visibility high up was poor. So our plan to ski the Back Corries, the so called “Backside of the Nevis Range area” with some colouir skiing had to be cancelled. No visibility and risk of high avalanche danger. Instead we were searching for snow lower down with some success. At least we had some good visibility there…

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So no success today. Maybe tomorrow?

Day 3. Rain and wind. Not what we are looking for. We drive in direction of Glen Nevis car park and start hiking to Stob Ban, sitting in the shadow of Ben Nevis. Some classic gully skiing there? The wind is stronger. After an hour hiking in the rain and still not having snow underneath our feet, we turn around, senseless to go further. We would be blown away.

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Day 4. More wind and rain. High winds up at Ben Nevis with up to 180km/hour. You wouldn’t want to be up there. Would you? Maybe to try flying without parachute?

So we make it a sightseeing day. Still impressed of what nature has to offer and how many ski touring options there would be. Just nature is against us. Okay. Accepted.

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Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most recognised castles in Scotland, a Scottish icon and one of the most popular visitor attractions in the Highlands. So we have to go there.

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It is truly beautiful. Maybe not on this day though. Rain coming sideways. A quick walk around the castle, back in the car and now up for searching Nessie…

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We find the Loch Ness Exhibition Center, feels like in the middle of nowhere. Where is Nessie? Won’t find him or her here. A tourist trap? Back to our home in Glen Nevis.

Day 5. Another rainy, windy day. Sucks. So let’s drink Whisky. Now we know how it gets brewed.

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Day 6. Oh wonder. The sun? Really? Just the heavy rain has washed the snow away. But what a nice sunny day to start with our hike to Lochan á Choire. We want to climb and ski Raeburn’s Gully. 6km’s of a hike with heavy load on our back and then we finally touch the snow again. We meet 4 Scottish man on the way. “And what have you been doing today?”, we asked. “Oh we’ve been snowholing. Stayed overnight in a snow cornice….” Wow. Impressed. And the guys are impressed that Paul is accompanied by two good-looking ladies. Hahaaa.

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By the time we reach the end of the valley, weather has changed and snow is coming from the side. Heavy winds again.

Nevertheless we start climbing Raeburn’s Gully. Snow is “running” down the colouir like a stream. Firm snow for hiking up though. Just some icy parts inbetween…

Raeburnsgully

Wind isn’t gone.

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But we are finally out again, climbing and skiing. Feeling how small we are. Nature is definetely stronger.

Teresa on her way down...
Teresa on her way down…

Happy to have skied some scottish snow again. A quick look back.

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Heavy load again. It’s dark until we get back to the car.

Day 7. Another try in the Nevis Range Ski Resort. We want to ski in the Back Corries. Weather today: not too bad. Just, strong winds again. And the fog doesn’t move away. So again no visibility high up. We wait and wait. Still not better. Without visibility and with the heavy winds – no chance. Bad luck for us. We tried but nature was stronger. We give up, pack our stuff and drive to Edinburgh. Not directly though, as the road signs lead us to Ian Burnetts’ Highland chocolatier. Chocolate. Yes! We deserve this right now!

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Back in Edinburgh, sightseeing and strolling around in town. Remembering the good times we’ve spent together. We really have been unlucky with the weather but Scotland is definetely worth visiting! We don’t regret anything! Okay, the weather could have been better but that’s the way it is…

I couldn’t have asked for a better team travelling with me! Thanks Teresa and Paul for the memorable time!

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Skitouring in the home mountains

This winter has been really tricky in the Alps concerning the snow pack so far. You couldn’t go to steep, always had to keep an eye open where to go. But finally a long high pressure area stayed in Tirol, the snow pack got more and more stable and now it was possible to go where we were longing for… Brandjochkreuz – high above Tirols’ capital. Always wanted to ride this face, never got to until now… Together with Patrone, Joi and Dani we went for it. It all went well until about hundred altitude meters below the summit. Well, Patrone made the right call and went up a different way. We thought to do it differently, as it seemed to be easier but it wasn’t. One step, sank in completely, hard to move forward…  However, some steps were a pain in the a… but would you complain on a perfect sunny day with great people? No, of course not! It took a little longer but we made it…

Skiing down was surprisingly good. Steep at the upper part, powdery and good to ride…

Thx Dani, Joi & Patrone for this awesome day!!!! Next day: Arlberg was calling… I joined Björn and Michi. So many options, hard to decide. Björn, our Arlberg local and one of the best skiers I know, made the call for Augstbergköpfli. Going for the north colouir there…

this would be it...
this would be it…

Another just awesome day out in the mountains. Both, Björn and Michi are doing their mountain guiding education course at the moment.  So they are top fit and it’s cool to hang out with them! But quite a challenge to keep up with them ;-)

Instead of climbing all the way up to the peak we decided to ski up where we came from. Better snow conditions as in the North faces – perfect corn snow to ski down…

Thx guys for a great day with you!   Day 3: Mankei calling… Would you be interested in climbing an unnamed colouir? Of course I was – yes, I’m in… We took the cable car up, skied through shitty snow down to the Inzinger Alm and started our hike from there…

Not much snow, still sharky in this surrounding. It took us hours to get up in the colouir. The snow surface was causing us trouble, it was a pain in the a.. to move forward. But we got rewarded, made it to the top and got to ski down in hard packed snow. Instead of hiking back to the ski resort, we went for a different plan and skied all the way down to a village and where calling a taxi instead. Just the taxi didn’t come but Michi was so kind to get us and bring us back to the car… Thx Michi!

Girls day – out with the Widmesser Sisters, Pia & Anna. Decided to go skitouring in the Achensee Region and ended up climbing the via ferrata to Rosskopf… Another beautiful day out!

Road tripping to La Grave and back

La Grave. At least once in a skiers life time you wanna go there and experience this special spirit there. La Grave is well known for its high-mountain ski area and attracts people from all over the world. I always wanted to go there and now there was the time to get there…

But why would you leave home, when you have good conditions here? Good weather was forecasted for the whole week, snow was good here and we knew that the conditions in La Grave won’t be awesome… Still, we wanted to go and give it a try…

Back to where it all started… Innsbruck. I met with my friend Andi, left my car at the mechanics because it needed to get serviced, loaded up all the stuff and then continued to drive with Andis’ Beauty, the red “Porsche”. On the road again – yes! 70km’s driving later, an extreme noise stopped the driving. What was wrong? The tail pipe – oh no! We somehow managed to drive to the ÖAMTC, where the Lady was already laughing at us because she could hear us coming from far away… Well, another hint to stay back home? The car would need to get serviced, would that be possible? And would we get to France and back with “Beauty”?

This is Beauty...
This is Beauty…

Instead of going back home with the train, I made a call to my good friénd Toni at the Arlberg. It was much closer than going back to Innsbruck, so he was so kind and organized us a place to stay at the Arlberg – thanks Toni! It was cool to spend the day in Pettneu, meeting some familiar people back from the days where I worked there as a ski coach…

The car got repaired within the next day, so we left Landeck around noon. It was an odyseee of driving, we took the Italian Highway, lots of toll stops inbetween and spending some time asking people the right way. A tunnel? 45 Euros? Sh… We went into the wrong direction… That happens when you’re road tripping and you are not well prepared – so we paid our dues ;-) Won’t happen again – for sure! But it made this trip even more unforgettable ;-)

But going back through this horrific expensive tunnel? No, we tried a different way. My Gps showed us a different mountain route with a mountain pass inbetween. We gave it a try. One hour driving and then just frustration – the pass is closed. Why couldn’t they write this down earlier? Hahhahaha… Well, I guess sometimes just shit happens…
So back the same way, through the tunnel and just before midnight we arrived in La Grave, at the Gite le Rocher. If you visit La Grave you should stay there! Cool hostel, nice people and I guess the weirdest decor I have ever seen…

The next day – blue sky, exploring new Terrain. The worlds’ famous Telepherique brings us up to 3200 meters. You don’t wanna be stressed riding this cable-car. It reduces the fast pace, you have to slow down… That is what I think is very special about La Grave, nobody is stressed out, everybody is taking it easy and slow…

Skiing on hard packed snow, enjoying the day out. While skiing, a crevasse collapsed and made us aware of being out skiing on a glacier…

I’ve seen quite a bunch of videos about La Grave. If you like steep skiing, it is a cool place to be. The terrain offers many options. At this time to less snow and some of the classics haven’t been skied by the locals, so we made most out of it and took it easy…

One Video is worth watching as it gives an insight of this place. Here we go:

One of the classics. To the left skiing down the glacier. To the right - the Y colouir. Not enough snow there...
One of the classics. To the left skiing down the glacier. To the right – the Y colouir. Not enough snow there…

Strolling around town later on…

One more day of quite good weather. So Andi and me decide to drive up to Col du Lautaret and see what’s possible there. Many options, after some discussion which one to choose, we decided to hike and ski this nice mountain…

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A bad weather front moved in the next day, brought some fresh snow to the mountains again, still to less but it’s a reason to go back there and definetely stay longer!

8 hours later, we are back home. Beauty brought us back safely… A short, long trip, opening the eyes to see what’s possible to do there – a beautiful place that needs to get explored…

Thanks Andi for the memorable trip! Hopefully Beauty will survive for much longer…

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Melissa Presslaber *** Professional Freeskier / Freeski Mountaineer ***

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