With the ski season just around the corner, CairnGorm Mountain in Scotland has just been forced to shut down it’s most important lift. CairnGorm Mountain is the second largest ski resort in the UK, and at it’s heart is their prized funicular railway. The funicular carries passengers two kilometers from the base to the top of the mountain, providing access to all of the mountain’s terrain and lifts.
CairnGorm made the decision to shut down the railway in mid September after an annual inspection. Structural engineers will be assessing the structural integrity of the funicular’s foundation. It is uncertain when the funicular will reopen, but by the end of this month the first part of the analysis should be complete, and the mountain will have a better idea of what repairs may have to be done.
According to The Telegraph, the loss of the funicular railway is cancelling some of CairnGorm Mountain’s programs. The funicular is the essential for accessing beginner runs, so the ski school program has been shut down for the year. Not only will this decrease CairnGorm’s revenue, it also means that the whole ski school department, about 50 people, need to find new jobs. Also, as a result of the closure, Disability Snowsport UK has stopped booking its nonprofit adaptive skiing services, and Groove CairnGorm, an annual music festival on the mountain, has been cancelled for this year. The resort has also decided to pause all season pass sales until things get sorted out.
Still, CairnGorm seems to be staying positive. On their website they claim that the mountain will remain open for business by using their snowmaking to keep the lower parts of the mountain open. Skiers should still be able to access all of the mountain’s runs by taking the car park t-bar and M1 Poma lift, even if these lifts aren’t as ideal as the funicular.
“There is no doubt that this is going to be a challenging season, but we have operated skiing without the funicular in prior winters; and are confident that with additional planning and resource we will be able to continue to offer great skiing this winter as well,” said Ewan Kearney, COO of CairnGorm Mountain.
The operation of the ski area concerns the economies of the local towns of Aviemore, Badenoch, and Strathspey. These towns benefit from the winter tourism revenue that the mountain brings. Despite the fact that CairnGorm’s operating company will be offering assistance to impacted local businesses, they are being heavily criticized by politicians for their decision to shut down the railway. At the end of the day, however, safety must come first and there isn’t a whole lot that the mountain can do about the situation.
“Rest assured, we do not underestimate the significance of this situation to the entire local area, including our own employees, and are working to resolve this situation quickly and safely, for the future benefit of all mountain visitors,” stated Ewan Kearney.