ben nevis from meall a bhuiridh
With a little effort, and good timing, Scotland can deliver surprisingly good off piste skiing. This little introduction should give you a few ideas to get started... Pack an OS map and some enthusiasm!

Resort Based / Lift Accessed Off Piste

Glencoe is our local resort - and contains some rugged off piste routes. Baillies gully and the East Ridge, on far skiers right of the hill, are two favourites. Though many of the marked runs are also left ungroomed as 'nature intended'.

Further north the Nevis Range ski area has some superb off piste runs in the various back corrie's - the main variants are even marked on the Aonach Mor Piste Map. The easily accesible Easy Gully is a Scottish off piste classic, especially on those rare days the Braveheart chairlift operates.

Cairngorm has some interesting terrain to either side of the main ski area. The east wall of Coire na Ciste has some fun skiing including Mclarens (#1) gully. In good snow you can even return to the lower Ciste car park via the adjacent Coire Laogh Mor. To the west of the main ski area are some very steep lines in Coire Sneachda, including the famous Aladdins Couloir (37 degrees).

Scotlands largest ski area, Glenshee, can offer some good off piste - particularly around the Glas Maol sector, which is a giant north facing bowl, and also skiers left of the Carn Aosda T-bar down to the road.

Ski Touring

If you want to get further away from the ski area then skins & touring bindings will be required. Donald Bennet spent a life time collecting photos for his excellent scottish ski mountainering guide book. Though be warned it was published in the snowier years of the 1980s!

For ski touring the high Cairngorm plateau is the most snow sure area in Scotland. Even when the main Coire Cas ski area is bare you should still find be able to find enough snow for ski touring up high on the plateau. Coire Domhain and Coire Raibert, directly over the back of Cairngorm, offer wide open slopes and excellent descents. Traversing over to Ben Macdui is a classic (amazingly snow sure!) ski tour. Further afield Braeriach can also be reached, perhaps as part of a Cairngorms 4000ft'ers ski tour - though be warned its a long old hoof!

The scenic mountains in the west of Scotland are generally a little steeper & rockier. Reliable snow for touring can be found on the high plateau between Aonach Mor and Aonach Beag - perhaps returning by the snowy Nevis Range ski area back corries? One of our finest ski tours was an 8 hour traverse over Ben Nevis & the giant NE facing bowl of Carn Mor Dearg, before finishing at the Aonach Mor gondola (the Lochaber haute route). The classic ski tour in the Glencoe area is the legendary high level Blackmount Traverse from Stob Gabhar, over Sron Na Creise, and finishing at the Glencoe ski area on Meall A Bhuirdh.

Closer to the central belt Ben Lawers and the Drumochter Pass (A9 road) are both well known touring areas, primarily due to the easy access from the high level car parks at 600m.

Gully Skiing

If your looking for steep skiing then Scotland has plenty options. The SMC publish detailed climbing guide books listing all of the gullies in Scotland. Any grade I winter 'climb' with good snow cover will be skiable. Usually gully descents are best attempted in the spring (mid March - mid May), when the snow is softer. At this time of year snow will have melted from the surrounding plateaus and corries, so access to the gullies is most often on foot. Climbing the gully, using crampons and ice axe, before making a ski descent is highly recommended!

Our favourite area for steep skiing is the north face of Ben Nevis. #3 and #4 gully both offer fun long vertical descents and 45 degree pitches. Whilst Tower Gully and #2 gully probably fall into the category of extreme skiing. Some of the descents found here are, in our opinion, just as challenging as those found in better known locations such as Chamonix or Verbier.

The Northern Corries of the Cairngorms are another great, easy to access, spot for steep skiing. In Coire Sneachda you will find Aladdin's Couloir & Jacobs Ladder (very steep!) and the easier Goat Track / 0.5 Gulley (30 degrees), as well as many others. If your lucky these descents could even be combined with a ski tour on the plateau!

Elsewhere in Scotland Ben Lui , Glencoe, Creag Meagaidh, Lochnagar and Braeriach are other areas that can all offer good steep gullies.

Hopefully this little intro has provided some inspiration - keep a keen eye on the snow conditions, and be sure to 'make hay when the sun is shinning' !

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easy gully pic
gorm skinning pic
ben lawers pic
ben nevis pic

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