Ironically, in a very beautiful way, I seem to have been proven wrong since my last piece about the tenuous state of Scottish skiing. Proved so wrong in fact I managed to lose £14, (big wagering as a student up here in the Highlands, I know), and somehow get lift accessed snowboarding in November. November! For the most part, the staff at Glencoe Mountain were as taken aback as I was. They told me this was the first time Glencoe had opened in November for the first time in 60 years – this is looking promising.
– A video showing the radical views you get from the Plateau Poma
I’m going to stick my neck out here. My friend Matthew Bradley has a theory. Hold up, before I carry on, I must emphasise I do have friends. One of them just happens to have the same name, and same hobbies as me. I am not referring to myself in third person. HONEST. Anyways, he believes in this ‘7 year cycle’ theory. I wouldn’t Google it as it doesn’t officially exist, but it claims that very cold winters…with lots and lots of snowfall occur every 7 years, coincidentally fitting in line with 2010 – where record low temperatures were recorded and numerous chairlifts and pomas had to be literally dug out the snow. Coincidence? I think not!
Back to the actuality of snowboarding in November, there really isn’t anything better. Hearing the snow condense underneath your board, feeling your edges dig into the snow as you slingshot from one side of the piste to the other. Up Glencoe in November, this distance of one side of the piste to the other isn’t all that far, but that’s not to say ye cannae have some fun! The early season Coe can throw you into some funny shapes when you navigate down its narrow corridors of snow, ice, heather and rock, but those fences which bank the snow up in small tasty powder pockets the Americans would be envious of. Probably. Lift access was restricted to 3 runs, but if you got creative enough it would easily see you through the whole day.
– Improvise. Adapt. Overcome. Thin snow cover means a little more exploration for some gnarly cornices to huck off…
I headed down to Glencoe with three pals: Gregor, Cameron and Joe for just a casual day. It was my second time visiting the resort, and I was once again impressed as to how the engineers had been able to maintain these archaic tower and cable structures on the mountain side. They look better suited in the industrialising world of the 19th century, but don’t fix what ain’t broke I suppose. Or rather fix it until it can’t be fixed anymore. Plateau Poma, the first accessible lift after the Access Chairlift, sums this feeling up nicely, with a seasoned button tow in one corner, and a nervous skier in the other. The humble and friendly lift operator acts referee, ready to intervene when the tussle between snowsports enthusiast and tow turns into a beatdown. Luckily, more often than not, the skier will slide away without a scratch, but when the poma gets his punch in, boy does the unsuspecting opponent get a surprise. Ouch.
– The culprit in question, but no beatdowns were recorded this time round
This is not to say that Glencoe is unwelcoming. On the contrary, the Coe is full of Glaswegians, celebrated for their friendly and embracing personalities. The staff have got good chat as well. Unfortunately for them they are polite enough to chat to customers like me who find conversation starters as unique as “your wellington boots have got a beefy tread on them!” God help their sanity. They’re going to need it if the season is forecast to be as good as 2010, which judging from the scientific evidence provided is bound to happen!
Nevertheless, you don’t need lift access to make the most of the winter wonderland the UK seems to be wrapped up in. Uplift is good, but the best stuff is found elsewhere. So go dust the cobwebs off that snowboard and stride off into the hills with blind optimism. If anything, it’s this blind optimism that keeps us British snow fiends in high spirits.