ROGER COX Gallery images

FOUR SEASONS: THE PAIN OF MISSING IT

Published: The Scotsman (TSMag) 20 April 2013

LISTEN carefully. Can you hear that sound? A sort of half-crunch, half-squeak? That’s me grinding my teeth at the prospect of no more snowboarding this winter. I’m not ill or injured (apart from the teeth, obviously) but due to a double-whammy of personal and professional commitments, it’s unlikely I’ll be going anywhere near a hill for the next month or two. By the time I’m back on an even keel, most of the snow that’s currently blanketing the Highlands will have melted. That’s right – probably the best few weeks of spring skiing conditions Scotland has had in the last decade, and I’ll have missed it. Argh! There goes another molar.

Of course, I should be more grown-up about this. I should be able to shrug my shoulders and say to my inner child “there will be other winters” – or, more to the point, “there will be other springs”. But the trouble is, I have a feeling I’ll be waiting a really, really long time before I see another spring like this one.

Let’s have a look at the snow depths at the various Scottish ski resorts, shall we? (Although please bear in mind that doing this causes me actual, physical pain in the pit of my stomach.) At time of writing they’re reporting 120cm on the upper slopes at The Lecht. Cairngorm, Nevis Range and Glenshee have 200cm apiece. And Glencoe? A phenomenal 260cm up top. More than two-and-a-half metres, people! Even if we miraculously traded climates with Brazil tomorrow, it would still take ages for that much snow to melt. However you slice it, from a skiing perspective this is shaping up to be a spring like no other.

I always used to think that the worst thing about missing out on great snowsliding conditions was hearing glowing reports from the people who did manage to make it up the hill and, of course, seeing their pictures on social bragging – sorry, networking – sites Facebook and Twitter. But no, it turns out that’s not the worst thing. The worst thing is knowing conditions on the hill are perfect, knowing you can’t take advantage of them and then finding out that hardly anybody else has bothered to get themselves up there. When this happens, the pain is doubled, because you know you didn’t just miss out on great conditions – you missed out on great conditions with no lift-lines, easy parking and uncrowded pistes. If I thought that Scotland’s ski resorts were going to be rammed with skiers and boarders for the next few weeks, I could just about cope with missing all the fun, but there’s worrying evidence to suggest this isn’t going to be the case.

Exhibit a: a tweet from Glencoe Mountain the other weekend which read: “Cracking day today but where were you all? Very quiet on the hill…” When I saw this, the tooth-grinding went into overdrive as I pictured hundreds of Glencoe regulars trying to decide between skiing in the sunshine or watching football on the telly and simultaneously opting for the telly.

Exhibit b: a press release from ski-scotland, the marketing body for Scotland’s ski resorts, which begins “ski-scotland is aware that rumours are circulating that the Scottish snowsports season is about to finish for the year. These rumours are incorrect.”

Why anyone would believe a rumour that the ski resorts are about to shut up shop when they have more snow than they know what to do with is beyond me, but evidently some do. However, the really frustrating bit of that press release was further down: “The snowsports season is expected to continue into May, with ski areas remaining open as long as this is viable, ie as long as there are skiers in sufficient numbers.”

That’s right – the lifts at Scotland’s resorts aren’t going to stop running because there isn’t enough snow – they’re going to stop because there aren’t enough skiers. Or, to put it another way, the same people who think skiing in the teeth of an icy hurricane in mid-January is a good idea have somehow got it into their heads that skiing in a T-shirt on a balmy afternoon in April is a bad idea. Enough already! Head to the hills people! And while you’re there, why not drop me a line and tell me what a great time you’re having and how badly I’ve missed it? You’ll actually be doing me a favour.

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