Scottish Skiing / Nevis Range

It’s beginning to look a lot like winter. Finally! We have had an incredibly slow start to our winter season in Scotland, so we’re all relieved to have a nice dump of the white stuff on the mountains this week.

I think it’s fair to say that Scottish skiing is a labour of love. It will never be the alps. Our five resorts are small, the weather is erratic and unless you’re exceptional at playing rock dodge your skis usually need a service after a day on the hill. However, there is something special about Scottish skiing that keep us coming back for more – not to mention the backcountry potential.

Regardless of the weather (which can be icey, windy and shit) there is an unmistakable atmosphere on the hill. Everyone is cheery, friendly and generally just happy the runs are open. And the thing that always makes me laugh; without a doubt someone at some point will remind you “If you can ski in Scotland, you can ski anywhere.” Which is probably true!

Last Thursday, the west coast threw a freak of a day. An absolute bluebird. We left home at 5am (Ewan and I); I don’t know who did the maths because it only takes 3 hours to drive to Fort William from Glasgow – and the first lift was at 10am…

2 hours and 3 coffees later, our AM view was pretty alright.

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Big Ben

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Ewan (big brother)

Nevis Range is the highest place in Scotland to ski, a clear day gives you views of Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the British Isles) and the lochs at sea level – wouldn’t get that in the alps! Nevis offers a kick ass range of skiing no matter your ability – there’s fast steep runs for intermediate/advanced skiers and lower slower areas for beginners. Nevis is also home of the Back Corries; considered by most to be the ‘gem’ of Scottish skiing. The Back Corries are out with the patrolled ski area, so primarily for expert skiers.

A few of the runs weren’t open when we were up on Thursday and the lower slopes were still rocky – so we paid £25 for a day pass rather than £35.50. Which was pretty nice of Nevis.

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We skied until 1pm, and met our dad in the mountain cafe for lunch. The Nevis Mountain Gondola is a great option for non skiers to get up the hill and experience the views and fresh air (it’s also the only mountain gondola in the UK).

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Our afternoon was a bit shorter, we landed on some gritty rocks coming gown The Goose and by 3 o’clock our ski service bill had doubled! Worth it though – we had an unforgettable day.

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Touring skis and skins coming soon… (so long uphill walks)

Overall – what skiing in Scotland lacks in scale makes up for in character and I think it’s fair to say we all really appreciate the skiing facilities we have in Scotland. Would I swap a weeks skiing abroad for a week in Scotland? Probably not, but I would definitely buy a season pass for a Scottish resort, so I could ski as regularly as I like throughout the winter.

Come ski in Scotland, it is fantastic and undoubtably a different experience from skiing anywhere else in the world.

 

 

 

Home Is Where You Park It

My van rental was in collaboration with Caledonian Campers ahead of the Scottish Caravan, Motorhome and Holiday Home Show – my experience was gifted. The show opens 7th-10th of February at the SEC Glasgow – come check it out! 

You could go as far to say I am obsessed with camper vans. So much so, my boyfriend and I have a group chat (with only us in it) called ‘advantures.’ We created it when we first met with the dream of one day owning a van in mind. Preferably a VW, but let’s not be picky!

When Caledonian Campers gave me a shout last week offering me a weekend in one of their VW vans I was ecstatic; but with Callum being away at sea – my mum took the hot seat in his place. Sorry Callum!

What’s so special about a van? I think the appeal can be summed up in one word: freedom. No other form of transport allows for such spontaneity, and in Scotland – the freedom to roam is endless. A van allows you to spice up your adventure as much as you like; bike racks, surf boards on the roof, skis? But it can also be stripped back to the point where your adventure is simply the drive, the scenery and the experience.

We chose the latter this weekend. I was choked with the cold, so took a wee rest from big adventures. It was really nice driving around without anywhere in particular to be; I even read a book from cover to cover!

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If you are thinking about hiring a van (I’d totally recommend it) here are some advanture tips:

Pack light. A small space quickly becomes cramped with people in it, limit your luggage so you’re not constantly shifting bags around.

Plan a suitable route (it can be a rough plan) – having a route in mind helps manage fuel costs. And on that note – mark fuel stations on your map. Running empty is never cool… yep, been there before!

Have an idea of where you can park for the night, campsites are a good option if you like to have a shower (clearly not on my priority list); Scotland has a good bunch to pick from. Finding a remote spot is my preference, for peace and privacy. Just remember to park responsibly i.e., not in lay-bys.

Check out local pubs, cafes and shops. Stop and spend a few pennies in the places you visit.

Buy suitable food for inside the van – things that aren’t going to leak everywhere and cause you to loose your van deposit! Food that can be cooked/heated on a hob is best, soup, pasta, cous cous!

Keep an eye on water and gas if you are going further off grid.

Take the slow lane and enjoy the journey – but pull over to let cars past if your causing a pile up.

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Caledonian Campers

How easy are the vans to drive? 

Very easy! I was really nervous about driving the van before I picked it up. But driving a new VW is as easy as driving a small car, power assisted steering, parking sensors, really good turing circle. I found it a doddle (and I usually hate driving). Stay wide, slow down and you’ll be grand!

What are the costs?

Low season (Nov-Feb) £71-£85 per day

Mid season (March, April, Sept, Oct) £85-£99 per day

High season (May-Aug) £110-£122 per day

What happens if something goes wrong? 

You are fully insured and have full AA breakdown cover if you have any hiccups.

How many people can sleep in one van?

They can sleep 4. I would say it would be perfect for 2 adults, and 2 kids. 4 adults would be pretty cosy!

Any hidden costs? 

£20 hire fee for a gas bottle

You are also required to take the van for a mini valet before return – depending where you go this could be between £20-£30.

Heres what I got upto...

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I collected the van in Glasgow and drove 2 hours to Glen Coe

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Parked at An Torr (walking distance to the Clachaig Inn)

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Went for a wander in the snow – took lots of snowscapes

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Drank tea and read books all afternoon

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Slept here on night one

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Woke up with a beautiful view of the Aonach Eagach ridge

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Crossed Loch Linnhe on the Corran Ferry

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En route to Glenuig we stopped at Loch Sunart for a walk

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Looked but failed to find the local Elephants…

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Parked here for night 2

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With beautiful views of Eigg, Rum and a wee bit of Skye in the distance

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Then lazed in the sun reading books for the rest of the day!

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Heading home we stopped at the Glenfinnan Viaduct for another snowy walk!

Huge thanks to Caledonian Campers for lending me their van for the weekend.

Winter Wild Camp

Frozen ground. Long dark nights. Minus temperatures. There are many reasons why most of us pack away the tent come winter. But what about the positives; no midges, more cups of tea and 17 hours of darkness for a lie in! In all seriousness, there is something magical about sleeping outside in winter – the adventure kind of feels more adventurous.

This last minute camping plan arose texting back and forth with my mum on a Saturday night. We felt we hadn’t been doing enough outside, we were fed up of the dark, all the usual winter moans. So I pitched the camping idea to mum, who laughed – and then realised I was being serious.

Neither of us are overly experienced in winter conditions, but we were confident we had the correct kit and with good weather on the cards, it was the perfect night to be outside.

For us, Glen Coe is the perfect halfway point between our homes. Initially we planned to walk partially up a hill to find a scenic spot with a view – but with snow starting to fall and the temperature dropping as the afternoon went on we decided sleeping lower in the glen would be more enjoyable and less freezing.

Pitching the new tent caused confusion, and a lot of hilarity. Our hands were freezing, and guess who forgot to pack the instructions? Or even read them! But we worked it out, set up camp and got a fire lit in the last hour before darkness. It’s true that energy is burnt much quicker when you’re cold, neither of us had eaten much during the day; and by 3pm we felt the effects.

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Having a real fire was such a treat, credit to mum who brought all the fire lighting bits and pieces. I was all for a jet boil dinner, but once the fire was going I was so grateful for the heat. By this point the hunger shivers were intense, so we melted marshmallows and scoffed them while our sausages cremated themselves on our fire.

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We were both worried we wouldn’t sleep, as the last log burned through and we were left in complete darkness the temperature was at -2. Not incredibly cold, but cold enough! The feeling of fullness certainly helped us to feel sleepy, and with no light left we climbed into the tent, layered up (again) and tried our best to get cosy.

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I’m not convinced I did actually sleep. I must have dosed off a number of times, but it was broken and it felt like a long night. I was neither cold or warm, I had plenty of thermal layers on, and I didn’t feel the cold of the ground, or any chill from the tent (big thumbs up for the new tent) – but it felt as though I had a layer of cold trapped on my skin that I couldn’t shake. My mum said the same, and a few times throughout the night we squeaked ‘are you still awake’ to one another. So, not much sleep to be had, but I can’t say I ever sleep that well in tents even in the summer.

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But – we did it! We made it through the night! Unzipping the tent to the view of the mountains, and River Etive was quietly satisfying. No big fanfair, but the sense of a small accomplishment felt really good. Although we zipped the tent straight up again and boiled up water for porridge before the hunger shivers returned.

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After we packed down the tent, we followed the river to the head of Loch Etive – which is one of my favourite spots on a calm day. It’s rare to find a sea loch that comes so far inland and being surrounded by sky scraping mountains; the most incredible reflections are created on the water surface.

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And, what’s the best way to round off an adventure? Of course, we had to go for a (very quick) dip.

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In collaboration with Vango – my tent and sleeping bag was gifted. 

F10 XPD 3 tent & Ultralite Pro 200