NEWS that new ski facilities are proposed for Cairn Gorm is welcome. This is the first attempt, since the initial developments of the 1960s, to present an overview of all the potential facilities that might be developed in the next 10 years.

The most important conclusion is that the funicular railway is no longer central to winter operations on Cairn Gorm and two new chairlifts are proposed to meet the full range of summer and winter activities. This means that the primary function of the funicular in future will probably be to provide a high-altitude shopping, eating, drinking and sightseeing facility for Cairn Gorm’s less active visitors. For the more active outdoor recreation interests on the other hand, the provision of new facilities for downhill skiing, mountain biking and walking will be crucial in restoring the worldwide reputation of the Cairngorms National Park.

A major problem in the new plan, however, is the lack of integration of uplift facilities between the two main recreational areas on Cairn Gorm, Coire Cas and Coire na Ciste. It is essential that the two areas are linked together to realise the full potential of the mountain so that there is easy access between snow-holding areas and the mountain biking and walking trails in both areas. This problem could be solved if, in the second phase of development, the proposed chairlift is re-orientated to provide a more direct connection between the two corries at a lower altitude.

Implementation of this project will be a major challenge. All of the mountain slopes need to be transferred from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) ownership to that of Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS), at the earliest opportunity. FCS is the only public body capable of managing such a project, but is well placed to do this, given its long-standing role in the Aonach Mor ski developments near Fort William and its previous role as owners of the upper slopes of Cairn Gorm prior to 1971 and current ownership of the lower slopes. As part of the ski facilities on Aonach Mor FCS and Nevisrange have produced one of the world's finest mountain bike tracks, attracting thousands of people. That experience must be brought to bear on Cairn Gorm without delay.

Dave Morris,

2 Bishop Terrace, Kinnesswood, Kinross.