Cairngorm Mountain ski area and all on-site facilities closing temporarily from 3pm on 24 December 2020. Access via the ski road is restricted to essential maintenance staff and Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Service. Please contact info@cairngormmountain.co.uk with any queries. We look forward to welcoming you back to Cairngorm when the Scottish Government relax the current restrictions.
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Backcountry & Touring Guide

Journey into the backcountry and experience a whole new side of the Cairngorms

Here at Cairngorm we welcome snow sports touring and are re-introducing a Touring Ticket for £11 to include two surface tow uplifts when we have sufficient snow. Tickets can be pre-booked up to 7 days in advance through our online system. For more details, please get in touch with the team on 01479 861261 or email info@cairngormmountain.co.uk – if using our car park and toilet facilities before you head out touring during the winter we encourage you to contribute parking donations, our donation box is situated to the right of the top Cas car park. 

Dogs are excluded from ski pistes and lift lines for both the safety of Snowsport users and the dogs themselves. If you are planning to tour beyond the ski area you should choose a suitable route that does not require your dog to be on a piste. You must be responsible for your dog’s actions which includes removing your dogs mess and disposing of it in an appropriate way.

Venturing outside of the ski area you will find a vast mountainous landscape just waiting to be explored. Ski touring and split boarding beyond the Cairngorm plateau and across the Northern Corries gives access to a range of backcountry terrain and technical descents. Only consider exploring outside the ski area if you are an experienced skier or snowboarder, stick to the pistes until you are confident in your abilities. The backcountry can be an intimidating place so we have put together some guidance for tourers who are thinking of heading out into the Cairngorms.

Assessment

Cairngorm is quite unlike other alpine resorts. The sub-arctic plateau can be a dangerous place when covered with snow. The featureless landscape and snow covered terrain make it extremely hard to navigate in bad visibility, leaving even experts in challenging situations. When planning a trip into the backcountry it is vital that you assess the weather, snow conditions and most importantly, your own skills – before you go ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I have competent knowledge of the area I am exploring?
  • Have I checked the mountain forecast and am I prepared for the expected weather?
  • Have I assessed snow conditions to see if there is an avalanche risk?
  • Am I confident in navigating using a map and compass or GPS device?
  • Do I have the necessary safety and rescue equipment?
  • Is all my equipment functioning to a suitable standard?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘NO’ then consider the risks you are taking by continuing with your trip. Taking the time to assess conditions and properly prepare could save your life.

Equipment

Having the proper equipment is important for adventuring into the backcountry safely. Scottish weather can change in an instant and the scenic landscape can become a dangerous and difficult place to navigate. Whether you’re a first timer or an experienced tourer you will definitely need these essentials:

Skis/Board: this may be stating the obvious but make sure you have the correct skis/board and bindings for touring – a short park board or stiff racing skis won’t be suitable for backcountry terrain.

Skins: without touring skins on your skis or board you’re not going to be able climb at all, don’t forget them or it’ll be a tough hike out.

Boots: saving weight is key for touring – having lightweight touring specific boots will make your climb up much easier, especially if the face is too steep for skinning.

Backpack: you could be out for an hour or for a full day, bring a backpack to stash all your kit in.

Poles: it might feel a bit strange snowboarding with poles but you won’t be able to tour without them – ideally take an adjustable set that can pack down and attach to your bag for descents.

Clothing: the backcountry can be a wild place, dress appropriately. Invest in some technical outerwear and mid-layers – keep spare gloves, socks and extra layers in your backpack.

Navigation: bring an up to date map and working compass or a functioning GPS system, the weather can turn very quickly and you want to be able to navigate through a storm.

Safety & Rescue: First-aid kit, transceiver, probe and shovel – you may never have to use them but bring them nevertheless and know how they work.

Aviemore has an excellent range of backcountry and touring retailers that can cater to all your equipment needs both in-store and online.

Cairngorm Mountain Sports Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports The Snowboard Asylum Nevis Sport Outdoor

Safety

Safety in the backcountry is your responsibility – assess the weather forecasts, check the snow conditions and be prepared. Our ski patrol do not operate outside of the ski area, if you or any of your companions get injured dial 999 or 112 and ask for ‘police’ then ‘mountain rescue’. Though uncommon, avalanches do happen in Scotland and have serious consequences. If you are planning to step into the backcountry, do your research, have the correct equipment and considering doing an avalanche awareness course. Head out in a group or if you are unfamiliar with the area think about going out with a guide first.

During the winter season, if your route ventures through the ski area, it is important to be aware of the snow grooming operations running throughout the day and at night. Details of the slopes that winch cats operate can be found below, please be vigilant when passing near these areas.

 

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