Glencoe, Scotland's oldest ski resort is one of my favourites in this country. It offer fantastic off piste and natural terrain, not to mention the pretty decent slopes too. Uplift is by a main chairlift from the car park up onto the mountain and then all upift is by tows bar one more single chairlift. It gets a bit tiring being on the tows all day but if you're looking for some good skiing then it's worth it!
The best runs at Glencoe obviously depend on your own ability but my favourite is the spring run with the hugely steep flypaper coming a close second. Flypaper sits at something like 50 degrees, now that's steep! Glencoe offers loads of natural terrain, gullys, rocks, big cliffs etc. Good fun for the freestyle or more ambitious thinkers!
Prices last season were very reasonable, they offered a special midweek discount if you bought your tickets online. Not sure if they are doing it again this season.
When the snow's good, Glencoe is top notch but the main slopes can get icy thanks to the wind beating. Although last season i had a day on the spring run in waist deep powder!
Check out www.winterhighland.info for up-to-date snow reports, lift status or whether the roads are open!
If you are used to alpine/american resorts the first things to point out is that Glencoe is small - only a dozen or so short runs (unless there is snow all the way to the carpark in which case you have Scotland's longest descent available). But despite the short runs there is plenty of varied and challenging natural terrain to keep most skiers happy for a day. Unlike some places this isn't a wide smooth hill with a few pistes coming down the middle. There are gullies, humps, bumps and natural drop offs, the pistes narrow and widen as they go around the contours of the hill (and big rocks) and you can easily find multiple routes down the same run. This variety allows you to push towards the limits of your abilities and keeps things from getting dull. Don't be put off if you are a beginner - the wide gentle plateau runs are the perfect place to build up you confidence, and if you think of yourself as an expert you will probably find the Flypaper interesting (Scotland's steepest piste). Points to note... 1) The steeper runs are often closed due to ice or avalanche risk - so if you are an expert it is probably best to check ahead (ceefax 420). 2) Icy conditions are common as the winds scour the slopes of fresh snow - make sure your edges are sharp. 3) Access to all the upper runs is via the same tow(s) which gets very busy. 4) On piste catering - there is only one mountain cafe and it gets really busy, the other restaurant is at the base station and you won't want to go back down there until the end of the day. If it is a nice day take a packed lunch and eat it at the top with one of the best views in Scotland. 5) Ski hire facilities are very slow and the equipment is dated - try and hire before you get there it will save you loads of time and you will probably get better gear. 6) The ticket office is very slow. 7) Access to the main ski area is via a long slow chairlift, in general the uplift equi
pment is showing it's age, though reliablilty stills seems to be OK. 8) Getting there - the only practical option is to travel by car, there are some buses that go past on the A82 but there are not exactly frequent. If you are lucky enough to get a good day the views from the summit across Rannoch Moor and towards Ben Nevis are breathtaking and you really feel as if you are on top of the world. If you are even luckier, the snow extends all the way to the base station and allows you to ski off the hill at the end of the day, this gives a great run of alpine proportions but getting back up to the top is a bit of a drag (literally!). At the end of the day the Kingshouse Hotel is just the other side of the main road and does a fine plate of chips and a good pint. In common with all Scottish skiing don't try and plan weeks ahead, the snow can appear overnight and disappear just as fast, and the weather can be everything from blue skies to blizzard (usually in the same day!) - if you decide to go, make it a spur of the moment thing - it all adds to the fun (and fun is what Scottish skiing is all about). If you fancy making weekend of it you may also want to try out the slopes at Anoch Mor near Fort William. It's is only 45mins away from Glencoe and offers loads of hotels and B&Bs for accomodation. Overall it is great place for brushing up your skills before you go over to Europe. Glencoe offers far more interesting and varied terrain than you will find at Glenshee or Anoch Mor, it's just that there isn't very much of it. For useful info on conditions etc try... http://www.ski.scotland.net or http://www.winterhighland.co.uk/general/ P.S. If you don't like tows don't ski Scotland, they are the main form of uplift. P.P.S. Prices last year were approx £18 for an adult full day pass, kids tickets and limited area and half day passes are also available.