Glencoe Mountain resort in the Scottish Highlands have just launched a crowdfunding campaign that they believe could change the future of UK skiing and snowboarding forever - by guaranteeing a snow-sure start date and end date to their season.
Glencoe is the oldest ski and snowboard area in Scotland, established back in 1956, but after one of their worst winters on record in 2016 the resort is now looking to move into the modern age by raising funds for a ‘TechnoAlpin Snowfactory’, a unit capable of making 100 cubic meters of snow per day in temperatures of up to 25 degrees and, unlike conventional snow cannons, capable of operating in mild, wet and windy conditions.
“Last year we only managed 32 days skiing and probably only nine of those days were what you’d call proper skiing," said Andy Meldrum, owner and managing director of Glencoe Mountain, speaking to Mpora. “The rest was very, very Scottish, which is code for lots of mud and not a lot of snow.
“We did a bit of research and realised the only way we could ever do something about a season like that was to go down the route of the Snowfactory. Our snow cannons aren’t made for the Scottish climate. A Snowfactory can churn out up to 100 cubic metres of snow in a hurricane. I think it really will be a game changer for Scottish skiing.
“One of the things that has always frustrated customers is that there’s never been a guarantee if you come to Scotland that there’s going to be snow. The maddest thing about Glencoe is that the latest we’ve ever opened is the 19th of February and the earliest we’ve ever closed is also the 19th of February. If you look at the past, it just seems to go in cycles, and even in the really good years there’s no continuity. Being able to guarantee dates would be colossal."
The Snowfactory wouldn’t be responsible for providing snow for the entire resort of Glencoe Mountain. As always, the better the snowfall, the better the skiing would be, but it would allow the resort to guarantee snow on certain runs throughout the season - and if there was strong snowfall, it could then be used to distribute snow where needed.
Meldrum continued: “There’s a new tow that we’ve put in called Coire Pollach which is a nice intermediate-beginner run and the idea would be to use the Snowfactory to cover that run, plus the sledging area, plus a little beginner’s area and an area where we’d hope to put a snow park.
“Beyond that, when we get lots of natural snow we would then be able to use the Snowfactory to produce snow that we could then distribute around the mountain to patch sections up if needed. It’ll allow us to patch up quite a lot of the mountain."
The crowdfunding campaign has raised £10,300 already at the time of writing, but still has some distance to go. Incentives available for contributors range from t-shirts and opening weekend passes to larger advertisement deals and business partnerships.
If the campaign is successful within the next month, Meldrum says Glencoe would be able to open their slopes for their first snow-sure winter on 1 December this year, and beyond that the resort owner is confident the development would change the skiing landscape in Scotland.
“If people had confidence to book a break because they knew they’d be able to get some skiing, it’d be a huge boost to all the local hotels and B&Bs and businesses," Meldrum said.
“I got a call this morning from somebody who said ‘are you definitely going to get the snow factory in this year because I’m just thinking of whether to book to go to Scotland or Austria on holiday?. Already it’s changing people’s thinking.
“I was hoping that if we could do this and prove that it works, it wouldn’t just be us who can do this - we could roll the technology out across the rest of Scotland. If all five resorts could have some areas of guaranteed snow then what confidence that would give people to come to Scotland or stay in Scotland rather than jumping on an EasyJet flight and going to Europe."
The idea to crowdfund was brought on due to the fact that Glencoe are currently in the middle of building a new three-man chair, and that they "can't borrow money because banks won't lend to the Scottish ski industry for exactly the reason we want to fix it - because we can't guarantee a winter".
If the campaign isn’t a success though, Meldrum isn’t going to give up hope there. He told us: “There are two parts of the plan. If we’re way off the mark then we’ll continue to try and raise funds into next year, hope for a good ski season and then look to try and make it happen next winter.
“TechnoAlpin [the Snowfactory manufacturer] basically have a unit in reserve for us as long as we can place the order by October, though. They can get that out to us for November and then we could have an opening date for early December. We’re putting ourselves under a lot of pressure but as with any fundraiser, things needs to be immediate. It’s all about getting energy and enthusiasm behind the idea."