Winter 1956 – Glencoe Mountain Resort becomes the 1st commercial ski area in Scotland.

Formally known as White Corries, skiing before 1956 at the Glencoe Mountain Resort was not unheard of, however it was a little more difficult.  Footage has been found of skiers from the Lomond Mountaineering Club on the mountain as early as 1939.  That film shows the evolution of the ski centre up to 1994 and includes footage from the winter of 56.

In the early 1950’s a temporary tow was installed in the main basin but it wasn’t until 1954 that a group led by Philip Rankin began to plan installing permanent uplift on the mountain. Mr Rankin together with the Scottish Ski Club installed the first overhead ski lift on Meall A’Bhuiridh in 1955 ready for use in the Winter of 1956.  Weather conditions were too harsh and exposed to ski in December and January (especially with no facilities to escape the elements) so this new permanent tow opened to the public in late February 1956 creating the first commercial ski centre in Scotland.

Mr Rankin came back to Glencoe for the first time since leaving when the resort hosted an event in 2011 to introduce its new Avalanche Transceiver training park.  Mr Rankin has since become a regular visitor again to the resort.

An event is planned for the 20th Feb 2016 to celebrate  60 years since the first uplift ran for the public on the mountain.  Torch lit ski procession, fireworks and film/photo display.

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Glencoe Mountain Resort 60 Anniversary photo 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Current Operators

Andy Meldrum and his wife Ann are majority shareholders at Glencoe Mountain Resort. Andy’s first introduction to skiing was in Glencoe when he travelled up from his home in Falkirk when he was 14 with the Scottish Youth Hostel association.

Andy recalled with hindsight it turned out to be a horrendous day for skiing with poor, harsh weather.   Having learned to ski on a dry ski slope he had never skied on snow before so he did not know any different.  He went up on borrowed skies, kit and jacket and had an amazing day skiing even though conditions were icy and rugged.    Andy only later found out that only a few of the other people in the group skied due to the atrocious conditions.

For years Andy and a group of friends had been visiting at midsummer to ski the long lasting snow patches that the resort is famous for. While skiing in Glencoe at the end of April 2009 by shear chance he mentioned to the chairlift operator that he would see him again in June for his regular visit.  The tow operator informed Andy this was unlikely to be the case as the business was up for sale.

This chance conversation sparked an idea with Andy which was later fuelled by his friend and future business partner.   The two of them encouraged each other to carry on with the endeavour and family support assisted the process.  After 6 months of negotiations and a lot of effort they took ownership of the resort.  Lucky for them 2009/2010 was one of the best seasons for winter conditions allowing a bit of breathing space to continue and indeed improve the resort.

Environmental Clear Up

This summer 60 years after the first construction of the tows began in Glencoe, Andy and a team of volunteers with the help of the Ski Club of Great Britain, Arinsdale Limited, Scottish Ski Club, Glencoe Ski Club removed over 20 tons  of junk from the slopes of Meall a Bhuiridh.
This environmental clear up was to remove rubbish that had accumulated on the mountain over six decades.  The build-up of old materials was a combination of storm damage coupled with the rugged and inaccessible location, making it a difficult task without helicopter support, to remove some of the heavier materials.

In August 2015, with the use of helicopters this team of helpers removed 36 helicopter bags filled with the decommissioned tow, old lift cables, redundant electrical wire and rotten timber & plastic.

Andy said, “It’s brilliant that we have been able to make a start on ensuring that the simply stunning Glencoe landscape is a little cleaner today than it was before.”    With more work needed in the future this work was a stellar beginning.

Glencoe Mountain Resort clean up 2015

Glencoe Mountain Resort clean up 2015 volunteers

 

 

 

 

 

 

Improvements & Plans for the Future

Glencoe Mountain Resort recently announced they were awarded funding from the Scottish Government to upgrade the current lift infrastructure.   This endeavour has already begun and is scheduled to take up to 3 years with a total investment of £1.89 million.

The first stage involved an upgrade of the access chair.  The chair was 25 years old and in need of a major overhaul. The overhaul included electrification and the installation of a back-up generator. This work is now completed and gives the chairlift another 20+ years of life.

The second phase of the upgrade was the installation of a new 400m button lift which has been completed for the 2015/16 season.   This increases the terrain available for skiers and boarders who are learning the sport.

Planned for next summer:  a new chairlift is to be constructed across the plateau from the top of the access chair to the bottom of the Spring Run. This chairlift will allow beginner and intermediate skiers to access a whole new area of terrain improving the beginners offering and expanding the resorts ‘learn to ski’ operation. It will also make the resort much more resilient during years of poor snow cover.

Over the next few years, the resort plan to build on and expand the centre in particular to make it resilient to the weather with more accommodation and a zip line planned for summer 2017.  The idea is that whether it snows or not they can still keep open for visitors and importantly, keep their staff employed.

Now in 2016, the Glencoe Mountain Resort currently extends over 200 hectares situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty on Rannoch Moor and operates on the Meall A’Bhuiridh Massif, amidst arguably the most stunning scenery in Scotland.  In winter visitors can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, sledging and avalanche rescue training and in the summer there is  both downhill and cross country mountain biking , tubing,  orienteering, hill-walking, climbing, chairlift rides, photography, trail building and  guided walks.

So, just a few changes since that first humble tow in 1956.

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