Many of us at Wilderness Scotland grew up skiing in the Highlands and have since been lucky enough also to ski around the world, working ski seasons in places such as France, Canada and New Zealand.
Put simply, we wouldn’t compare skiing and snowboarding in Scotland with the Alps or North America. New Zealand and Norway perhaps, but certainly not the famous ski resorts of France, Switzerland or Canada.
Scotland offers a different experience and while the quality of the snow and skiing may be temporary, the wild magnificence of the Highlands in winter is permanent. To make the most of skiing here, you need to combine opportunism with knowledge. On any given day, conditions across the country in terms of snow cover, snow quality and weather can vary enormously. Having the insider knowledge and experience of where to ski both on an off-piste will make a huge difference to the quantity and quality of skiing you will get done.
In terms of off-piste and touring terrain, we would argue this is where Scotland comes into its own. Away from the crowds, solitude and escape are guaranteed. While good seasons come and go, a committed ski tourer will typically rack up 20-30 quality days a year. If you’re prepared to be flexible and go with the conditions you can expect some memorable ski experiences through some of the most spectacular landscapes in Europe.
The weather in a Scottish winter is unpredictable and while the weather can sometimes be challenging there are many days of blue skies and sunshine which provide perfect overhead conditions for winter activities. In less ideal weather, having good clothing and equipment makes a huge difference and means that you can still enjoy yourself – the conditions simply become part of the experience rather than dominating it.
If the conditions mean skiing is not possible then you’ll spend the day in the mountains working on navigation and safety skills. Or you may want to take a break from the outdoors and enjoy a mini sight seeing tour visiting some historic sites, and maybe even a distillery for a wee nip. However, if the conditions are good you can honestly have some of your best days ever on skis.
As with much of Europe, snow reliability has changed a lot over the years and conditions in Scotland often change rapidly. The quality of skiing (for better or worse) can change overnight here perhaps more than anywhere else in the world. That all being said, if good snow depths and a base have formed by mid to late January then there is typically skiing on offer for the remainder of the season, through to mid-April. During February Scotland often enjoys one to two weeks of very stable weather with little wind and blue skies. The spring months of March and April are often the best of all especially for touring, offering extensive snow cover, forgiving spring-snow and long sunny days.
In the event skiing isn’t possible on any given day, your guide will be creative in ensuring you get the most out of this trip. That may mean more of a focus on technique e.g. avalanche awareness and companion rescue or even suggesting a non-snow activity for the day such as mountain biking.
Whatever the season or conditions, our guides are committed to providing you with the best mountain experience of the Highlands and a trip to remember.
Knowing where the best conditions are and how to make the most of your day, is essential to enjoying the Scottish ski experience. Each day your guide will, in consultation with you, determine the best place to ski taking care of any necessary details and logistics not just on the mountain but both before and after your day. In addition to guiding and instruction on the mountain, this will also include arranging all the necessary equipment and transport in what can sometimes be challenging driving conditions.
Our winter ski guides are typically both mountain leaders and ski instructors having built a huge depth of experience both in Scotland and around the world. This means you get the best of both worlds – coaching and advice on how to improve your skiing along with instruction on how to travel safely through Scotland’s mountains in winter.
In the event of weather not allowing you to ski, your guide will be there to organise alternative activities throughout the Highlands. Options include guided mountain biking or low-level hiking with an emphasis on navigation. If the weather is really bad and you want to bail completely then your guide will even be game for organising a mini sightseeing tour of the Highlands or a tour of the local distilleries and/or micro-breweries.