There will be fingers, toes and legs crossed as Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd (CMSL) welcomes the return of Scotland’s troubled mountain railway at the equally troubled Cairngorm ski area back to full operation. Following significant engineering works and testing, the UK Department of Transport has issued safety certificates, enabling CMSL to bring Scotland’s only funicular railway back into service during the 2023 snowsports season.
Weather conditions permitting, the 2km funicular railway will now run a regular service taking snowsports enthusiasts to the top of the slopes in around 5 minutes. The reinstatement of the railway comes alongside other major improvement works including new ‘magic carpet’ conveyor belts for the beginner slopes, car park improvements and the refurbishment of the Ptarmigan building.
Housing the UK’s highest restaurant, a 270° immersive exhibition space and viewing platform, the Ptarmigan is located at the top station of the mountain railway. The newly designed restaurant has been transformed into a light, contemporary space with an open plan gin bar, cosy log fire and floor to ceiling windows for guests to enjoy the spectacular views of the mountain range.
In the meantime, the cafés and popular shop located at the foot of the mountain, are both open throughout winter and offer outdoor clothing, food and drink by the log burner, and seasonal gifts. The resort as a whole offers year round interest for outdoor enthusiasts and visitors, with plans for the introduction of mountain biking in summer 2023 following on from the new improved visitor experience.
The Cairngorm Mountain Railway is Scotland’s only funicular railway and is the highest in the UK reaching the Ptarmigan building at over 1,065m. The reinstatement works have involved a complex engineering project to strengthen the viaduct and install a new control system, all within the strict environmental requirements of a unique mountain environment. The re-opening comes after rigorous quality and safety testing, including certification and approval by the UK Department of Transport to allow operations to re-commence.
Susan Smith, CEO of CMSL, said: “The Cairngorm Mountain team is thrilled to be welcoming snowsports enthusiasts onto the funicular railway once more. The improvements across the resort have brought major changes to the visitor experience and we are so pleased to see the railway transport people to the upper slopes as well as our refurbished Ptarmigan building. Weather permitting and with the hope that our capacity will expand further as the season continues, 2023 promises to be a landmark year for our business, team and local community.”
Owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and operated by the Cairngorm Mountain team, the resort is one of Scotland’s iconic locations and the railway makes the mountain environment accessible not only for snowsports enthusiasts, but visitors of all ages and abilities in every season of the year. With environmental rangers who oversee the protection of the site and can offer insights on its unique nature, visitors can learn about the Cairngorms and Scotland’s mountain environment.
Dave Macleod, head of property and infrastructure with HIE, said: “It’s wonderful to see the mountain railway back in action again. This will make a huge improvement to the customer experience at Cairngorm and strengthen the appeal of the wider area to attract visitors throughout the year.
“Reinstating the funicular has been uniquely challenging, not only in engineering terms, but also for the care that had to be taken to protect the environment during these works while also contending with some of the most severe and changeable weather that Scotland has to offer.
“Cairngorm plays an important role in the local economy as an environmental, educational and sporting asset and the funicular will enable people across a huge range of ages and abilities to enjoy the mountain not only in winter, but every season.”