Glencoe Pioneer Philip Rankin Passes Away At 99
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It is with deep regret and profound sadness that we announce the passing away of a valued member of the Snowsport community Philip Rankin at the age of 99.
Philip Rankin was a founding force of the mechanized uplift in Scotland and passed away in the comfort of his own home yesterday.
Philip Rankin, wrote an article suggesting the contruction of permanent ski tows on the northern slopes of Meall a’Bhuiridh in Glencoe, Rankin knew what he was talking about. He had been studying his chosen mountain carefully, and knew it held its snow well into the spring, long after all the neighbouring peaks had turned brown.
“It has an ample corrie deeply scored with ravines, which collect such a mass of snow as to be virtually impervious to even weeks of thaw,” he wrote.
Not only was the proposed ski area snow-sure, it offered some seriously challenging skiing for those who wanted it. In his article, Rankin suggested that the steepness of some of the terrain might cause even the bravest skiers to “consider carefully the merits of prudence as against taking it straight”.
The former Spitfire pilot quit his engineering job in Glasgow and set about turning his dream of commercial skiing at Glencoe into a reality; the first permanent lift on the hill – and the first anywhere in Scotland – eventually opened for business in 1956.
Rankin set out to convince the Scottish Ski Club – and the local landowner, Philip Fleming, then-owner of the Blackmount Estate – that development on Meall a’ Bhuiridh needed to be “on a proper scale or nothing”.
It was then that Philip Rankin persuaded the Scottish Ski Club to build a proper tow. The result was a Breco tow, being installed during the summer of 1955 at a cost of approximately £5,000. This new tow had a capacity of 250 skiers per hour, and gave a lift of almost 300 metres. One member of the work party, Bill Smith, skied 34,000 feet in one day in 1957. That's an impressive 17 miles of downhill, and the first "Everest" achieved on a Scottish hill.
“We did it arse-up from any sane way of doing it,” Rankin says of the initial development. “We put the ski lift on the top and walked to it because there was no other way we could get there. But we very soon realised that if [the resort] was going to be commercial there was no way we were going to sell that walk up the hill. Obviously that was only going to work for the real enthusiasts, so the next move was to put the first chairlift there.”
Philip was extremely grateful after receiving the Snowsport Scotland Lifetime award in November.
Our thoughts go out to all his friends and family at this sad time.