With the 2022 Winter Olympics kicking off in Beijing this month, I can’t help what wonder what might have been.
Is there a world in which I became a world champion ski jumper or a snowboarding legend? Probably not.
I can recall one particularly disastrous jaunt to Glenshee, during which I was dragged up a slope on my knees by the Poma lift as I desperately gripped my skis with one hand, all because I’d mistakenly thought this was the perfect opportunity for a wee rest rather than ‘staying upright, relaxed and allowing the lift to gently pull me’. While I failed to retain any of the basic ski knowledge I gained on that day, one thing that is crystal clear in my mind is the sound of the chap operating the lift screaming at me from the bottom of the snow-covered brae, ‘DON’T SIT DOWN!’ as a long line of my fellow skiers looked on. Ah, memories.
However, as I see all these talented people on television who did master basic instructions and so much more, gear up with their snowboards, skis, skates, bobsleighs and luges, it’s hard not to feel inspired to try another foray into a frozen pursuit or two, simply just for fun.
While international fans are unable to travel to the games themselves, there are still plenty of opportunities for anyone keen to hit the slopes and get into the spirit here on home turf (or snow ideally).
There are currently five ski resorts in Scotland including the biggest in the UK: Glenshee Ski Centre. Located in the Cairngorms National Park, you can purchase full day tickets and there’s a full equipment hire service along with group or 1-2-1 lessons at the resort’s snow sports school. If there’s been heavy snowfall, people can also sledge out with the slopes for free, although a £5 car parking charge applies.
Boasting both Scotland’s longest and steepest runs, along with 18 others, this Highland resort is a favourite among skiers and snowboarders. There’s also a 30% discount available for season ticket holders from the Lecht, Glenshee and Nevis Range.
Aimed more towards beginners or families with younger children and with fewer runs than the others, this resort is often a bit quieter and a great option for those looking to get to grips with their skis! The Penguin Park for 2–7-year-olds provides a fun and exciting way for little ones learning to ski or snowboard.
The wide range of terrain and stunning landscape makes this one of Scotland's favourite mountain destinations. The ski area, located on Scotland's 6th highest mountain, features terrain suitable for all abilities so everyone from beginners to experts can enjoy a memorable winter snow sports experience.
Situated on Scotland's west coast, it’s the country’s highest snow sports destination offering a variety of runs from gentle beginner slopes by the Gondola Top Station to more advanced off-piste runs in the Back Corries.
While the options to snowboard, ski or sledge are primarily dependent on natural snowfall, which has so far been on the lighter side, some resorts including Glenshee offer a few slopes with man-made snow to accommodate beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders.
Although the Winter Olympics finishes on 20th February, thankfully the Scottish ski season runs through until early April, allowing for later snowfall which often occurs. What you can do while you await some fresh powder is plan where you might head with some fellow keen beans in tow, what your route will be, how long it will take and most importantly what snacks you’ll pack for the drive and who’s in charge of making the playlist.
When the time does arrive, you’ll be able to gather the available and eager troops, perhaps collect an oh-so cheeky drive-thru breakfast en route and enjoy that unique sense of smugness you only experience when you’re up before the sunrise and most of the world on your way to a flipping good adventure. Opting for a car share also means those pals who happen to have their own boards, skis boots, goggles and obnoxiously bright coloured ski jacket can chuck them in the boot without the fear of forgetting anything on a bus or train. There might also be space for some extra blankets and jumpers to help you and your comrades cosy up after a day on the slopes.
With five different resorts around Scotland, it’s perfectly manageable to make a cracking day trip of it.
When that magical moment does occur and the world as you know it is turned into a winter wonderland overnight, you might want to skip the snow sports all-together and simply head to a part of the country where the snow remains untouched and primed for sledging, building snowmen and (if you’re anything like me) making ridiculously adorable snow angels. The same rules apply: assemble the friends, snacks and cosy kit and away you go!
While there may be no gold medals in your future for cross-country skiing or tobogganing and you might spend much of the day landing in a heap on your bottom, the memories of the experience will be top class.
Why not start thinking about your own Winter Olympic inspired adventure?
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