For a family with young school age kids, Scotland genuinely provides an opportunity for a ski trip out of term time when there’s massive pressure on accommodation in the Alps. It’s a long drive from the south of England but having your own car is pretty essential when you’re there because it provides the necessary transport required to get to the slopes from your accommodation base. We stayed in Ballater, well located for two ski areas – Lecht 2090 and Glenshee. It’s a beautiful place, nestled in a valley close to Balmoral Castle, peaceful and quiet during the winter.
There’s no real package deals here, it’s a real do it yourself style holiday – The Hilton Craigendarroch just outside Ballater provides an excellent base, because on bad weather days the large indoor swimming pool complex makes a good alternative to skiing. In fact, spending the morning on the slopes and then heading back afterwards for a relaxing afternoon swim became our normal routine. You can’t compare a ski holiday in Scotland to one in the Alps or North America, you have to take things as they come here – one day you might have glorious weather and great snow, the next, it’s blowing a hoolie as they say in these parts.
The skiing at Lecht 2090 straddles both sides of the A939 which is the main road between Ballater and Tomintoul, home of the Glenlivet Estate and Distillery. It has a bleak beauty about it, with its treeless moonscape and snow-fenced ski runs exposed to all elements in this remote highland valley. There’s also excellent beginner facilities located right by the large alpine style base station and car park. Even during the half-term week, we managed to park less than twenty meters from the chairlift and nursery slope area. The ski school had a slot for our 5 year old daughter and off she went with the instructor up the ‘magic carpet’ lift – much easier than a button lift for small children. Although the main runs are short, there’s plenty of options to choose from, except there’s nothing here to really challenge expert skiers.
Next up is Glenshee. This is Scotland’s largest commercial snowsports area in terms of lift infrastructure and miles of slopes. Like Lecht 2090, the ski area is on two sides of a main road, so when you park, just choose which side you start on. It gets a bit busier here than The Lecht, mainly due to its closer proximity to the major cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth – but once you’re up into the area it all spreads out and there’s room for everyone. It’s impossible to say that skiing in Scotland rivals what you’d expect in the Alps but for kids learning to ski it’s a great opportunity to get them into the sport with good instruction from British qualified instructors – and a nursery slope here isn’t all that different from a nursery slope in the Alps, well, on a good day that is.
Both ski areas have ski schools – Lecht 2090 runs their own ski school exclusively owned by the resort whilst at Glenshee there are several options including Freshtracks. All instruction is in English by BASI qualified instructors and we found the lessons ideal for kids learning to ski for the first time.
Childcare facilities would have to be arranged individually although the Hilton Craigendarroch does provide a baby sitting service.