Snow brings bumper winter sport season

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Scotland’s winter sports centres have seen nearly 15,000 skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes over the new year holiday weekend.

All five mountain ski areas are open for business and encouraging visitors from across the UK and overseas to take advantage of the wintry weather and enjoy an active break at one of Scotland’s breathtaking ski resorts.

Sports Minister Shona Robison said:

“We have some of the world’s most beautiful hills and mountains on our doorstep so it is fantastic to see so many people enjoying the winter sporting opportunities available.

“This year’s winter sports season has got off to a terrific early start and is already shaping up to be a record-breaker with Cairngorm, Glenshee, the Nevis Range, The Lecht and Glencoe all opening early this year and recording a phenomenal 77,000 skier days since the end of November – a considerable increase on this time last year.

“This builds on the growth we saw during last year’s bumper ski season, which was the best we had seen for 14 years and contributed at least £37.5 million to Scotland’s economy.

“In the new year holiday weekend alone, Scotland’s ski areas welcomed nearly 15,000 skiers and snowboarders – which brought obvious economic benefits for our ski centres and the wider local economies.

“And as Scottish tourism launched its year-long focus on Active Scotland on January 1, we can expect 2011 to continue to be a busy year for Scotland’s active and adventure travel sector.”

VisitScotland’s Chief Executive Malcolm Roughead said:

“The wintry weather has brought a fantastic boost to Scotland’s winter sports season and we’re getting great feedback both from Scotland’s ski centres and surrounding local businesses.

“Snowsports is important for the wider tourism industry. For every £1 spent on the slopes a further £4 is spent with local businesses. Ravenscraig Guest House in Aviemore has reported that bookings are up 100 per cent for December, and the Aviemore Bunkhouse has experienced a surge in last minute group bookings and bookings for early in the New Year. And we have seen an increase in enquiries about Scottish skiing holidays – particularly from people in the north and south of England.

“Our Winter White campaign captures the magic of Scotland in the snow and is encouraging visitors from across the UK. Our focus on the year of Active Scotland and our continued action to encourage those from Scotland and across the UK to enjoy a ‘staycation’ in 2011, means we are ideally placed to build on this success.”

Anyone heading out this season is being advised to:

* Check the weather forecast before setting off and remember that conditions can change quickly. Localised forecasts are available on the Mountain Weather Information Service and the sportscotland Avalanche Information Service via the Mountaineering Council Of Scotland website
* Make sure you know your limits and don’t tackle anything that is too ambitious – winter in Scotland’s mountains can be challenging and a route that at any other time of the year is easy, can take longer and be more physically demanding
* Whether going for a relaxing walk or for a challenging climb, be properly equipped and ready to cope with changing ground and weather conditions
* Winter conditions can be serious so carry an ice axe and crampons, know how to use them and practice on less serious terrain
* Tell someone where you are going, what your route is and how long you expect to be on the hill
* Consider joining a hill walking or mountaineering club where advice and access to experience and knowledge is available