DAY 3 OF THE SCOTTISH SEASON 16/17
Earlier this year for my birthday, my wonderful sister and her family gifted a stay in a microlodge at Glencoe Mountain Resort. Knowing how much time I had spent there last season, this was the perfect birthday present meaning I could wake up with the ski slopes on my doorstep.
As you may be able to tell from the (lack of) posts in this blog though, we weren’t having much luck with snow this year. The Hobbit House, as they are affectionately known was booked for the end of February, normally peak season, and I’d taken Monday and Friday off work to make the most of it. I’d had a stinker of a cold in the preceding days, one of the side effects of which seemed to be a zombie like eye. I’d burst a blood vessel, probably as a result of incessant sneezing. I couldn’t let this get in the way though, I was desperate for snow!
Storm Doris had been forecast to bring tons of snow and plaster the hills in the north. This wasn’t to be as the storm tracked further south than expected, dumping the snow in Glasgow and further to the south.
I had to take it on the chin and take my own advise, when anyone asks about Scottish snowboarding and skiing – “Always have a plan B”. This would take the shape of a possible hill walk or a photo adventure, but thankfully, at least for the Friday, I would be in luck. It looked like there was just enough snow to get the lower lifts running.
I made my way up on the Friday morning, planning for friends to join me later. On arrival, I was too early to check in to the microlodge. So changed into my gear and made my way up the hill.
Everything looked white, but it was fairly cosmetic. No real base to speak of, but the staff had worked their usual magic to provide some sport for visitors.
The plateau area was the main focus with heavy wet snow piled against the snow fences. For some reason no one was utilising this untouched bounty. It wasn’t quite powder, but more a buttery, creamy form of snow, but it was snow and that’s what matters. After several laps I broke for lunch to partake in the magical macaroni pies they do in the hill cafe. Waiting for a friend who would join me for an afternoon on snow and stay at the lodge.
The visibility was OK. You could see the tops of the hills in the morning, although the cloud base did drop as the afternoon progressed. Some snow arrived later along with a strengthening wind.
Along with my friend, we continued to make laps of the two small drag lifts that were open. The limited area wasn’t a concern as we were just happy to be on snow and the lack of people meant there was no waiting on the lifts either.
The day turned out way better than I had expected and proved you don’t need to have the best conditions to have a fun day. The only non-fun part of the day was when I attempted to turn to a stop behind a couple walking down a path. I hit a rock mid toe-side carve and stacked into my leading shoulder and arm. For a short while I’d thought I’d done myself a mischief. I’d broken this wrist in the past, but after a short while my hypochondria passed, I think it was just a dead arm. I’m still feeling it a couple of days later though. This may also have something to do with falling out of bed and waking up on the floor at 7am, which in-turn had something to do with the rum and whisky consumed that evening.
As we descended on the access chair at the end of the day, the wind was whipping up the snow, but a warmer wind was to arrive during the night. It would be a very different day that followed.
As I alluded to that evening staying in the Hobbit house we planned to have a game of dominoes which we borrowed from the cafe and didn’t end up using them as the drinks flowed and we put the world to rights. The microlodges are basic but cosy, plenty warm thanks to a little heater provided.
When I did wake up, on the floor, The view outside had changed from white to grey and brown. The water was cascading off the hill. What had been buttery soft snow was now a cataract of proportions I have not seen before on that hill.
Since there was no further opportunity for snow sport, we went for breakfast and took a short walk to clear our fuzzy heads.
I would be staying on for another night at Glencoe and would meet another friend who had coincidentally booked himself and his kids in to one of the newer larger lodges they have.
These lodges sleep more people with a higher roof to accommodate bunks. Definitely a great option should you want to stay close to the slopes instead of making the long journey home.
I had a couple more beers that night, but nothing excessive. The next day was due to be another wet one and I wasn’t sure what to do. If the hill was to open I’d promised to show the kids how to snowboard, but the forecast was correct and in the end, my day would consist of a drive to Fort William, where I would wait out the night to see if more snow would arrive for Monday.
It has truly been a stop-start season so far. But the outlook is looking a bit better. You can never be sure though. This is Scotland.