Measuring Potential (of the lower Aonach)

On Wednesday 10th June Save the Ciste undertook a site visit to survey and visualise the options for utilizing the currently non-lift served lower Aonach from the Coire na Ciste Chairlift.


These measurements will guide modelling of snow making potential in the lower Ciste. Snow making which will change utilization of the Ciste Chairlift from almost exclusively an access lift – the capacity of which was largely an untapped resource for much of the day – to a lift which serves and accesses a range of runs and terrain park for all ability levels at a lower elevation out of the worst of the mountain weather on terrain sheltered by the high and steep sides of Coire na Ciste.


The sheltered nature of the lower Ciste means it will be usable on many days that high winds and severe overhead conditions prevent use of the upper mountain. That sheltered nature of the slopes within the lower Coire is also important for maximising the benefits from modern snow making, as the relative shelter from warm winds and driving rain reduce melt rates and this gain is maximum in the narrow and deep lower most section of the Ciste Gully approaching the carpark.


Large Size Annotated Map (1.7mb)

On the annotated aerial photography, the purple dotted lines demark the constraints on the width of a fall-line lower Aonach Piste to pass cleanly between chairlift pylons. At 90m wide, this allows more than ample space for approximately 3 distinct lines on the lower Aonach.

One line containing a more challenging intermediate to advanced park starting at OverYonder giving the length to create a park that flows allowing numerous features to be hit per run, a blue graded Lower Aonach trail accessible from OverYonder and the top of the Ciste Chairlift, plus a novice to early intermediate shorter park containing features suitable for those just starting out in freestyle snowsports.

These three lines on the lower Aonach would runout onto the Coire floor before converging with a fence line from the lower Ciste Gully into a 15 to 20m wide link back to the proposed mid-line loading station on the Coire na Ciste Chairlift.


The West Wall – if only there was a Chairlift

This month on Cairn Gorm, skiers are unable to access the biggest snowfield on the mountain, underlining the necessity of our redevelopment proposals for this area.

West Wall & Ciste Gully

The above photograph showing Coire na Ciste a few days ago. The West Wall ski run is wide and complete to the foot of the mothballed West Wall Chairlift. In previous years the chairlift provided lift access here. Because the chairlift is not in operation, skiers are not now able to ski in Coire na Ciste for the majority of the ski season: an area that accounts for approximately half of the ski resort – and also includes the best advanced skiing on the mountain.

There is of course a second ski lift in this area, a surface lift – the West Wall Poma – but, despite the ski runs in Coire na Ciste being persistently skiable since early winter, and continue to be so today, the operator – like last year – was only able to run the Poma for some 15 days due to a lack of snow on the ski lift’s exposed uptrack. Skiers are therefore missing out – and not only that, but so too is the local economy.

We at the Save the Ciste Development Action Group are working hard on a series of multi-stage and multi-activity proposals for the redevelopment of Coire na Ciste. We want to bring this area back into use, sensibly and in a manner that is financially viable, for the benefit of everybody. We look forward to sharing those plans with you at a public presentation in due course.

Please continue to show your support by liking Save the Ciste on Facebook and by signing the e-petition at . Thanks to Doug Bryce for the photograph of CairnGorm’s Coire na Ciste taken from Meall a’ Bhuachaille.


Show some love on Valentine’s Day for Coire na Ciste

The schools are out for February half term, and it is all go in Strathspey. On Cairn Gorm, while the Coire na Ciste Chairlifts stand still, several shuttle buses will be on stand-by in the Ciste carpark to ferry skiers round to the facilities in Coire Cas.

Today, we consider some of the benefits that our multi-stage proposals (being created at the request of the mountain’s new operator) for redeveloping Coire na Ciste and for reinstating the two Chairlifts will have for visiting holidaymakers as well as for regulars.

If our vision for Coire na Ciste is realised, upon parking in the Ciste carpark you would be able to:

  • Stay at a micro-lodge (or your campervan, utilising new hook-ups) in the redesigned Base Area
  • Stop in at a new cafe/bar in the new Base Building – from breakfast-time through to dinnertime.
  • Have toilet and shower/changing facilities at the Ciste Base Area
  • Buy your ski pass, collect your ski hire, and meet your ski instructor
  • Head on up the chairlifts!

Once on the Chairlifts and up in the Coire na Ciste ski area you can:

  • Get started with learning to ski in our dedicated new snow-reliable Learners Zone in the most sheltered part of CairnGorm (Lower Ciste area), and gain confidence quickly by having the Chairlift rather than a T-Bar for uplift.
  • Get to grips with freestyle, or push your level, in our new snow-reliable world class terrain park (Lower Aonach area).
  • Stop for food + drinks, toilets, and shelter, at our new Hydro Scheme Turbine House building (environmentally sensitive in design) in the mid-coire area.
  • Continue on up the West Wall Chairlift to enjoy the expert runs or access the rest of the mountain.

Mid-line loading on the Lower Ciste Chairlift will provide uplift in the lower coire area without requiring to ski back to the carpark, and we plan to install an extra lift for the Learners Zone / Terrain Park.

Snow-making equipment is calculated to make both the terrain park and Learners Zone snow reliable for up to (or over) 100 days per season. The Lower Ciste Gully can be made additionally snow reliable by mitigating the stream melting the snowpack through installation of a tailrace as part of our Hydro plans.

Snow Making on the lower mountain.

We plan to make the runs back to the carpark as snow reliable as possible, and as part of this have surveyed a new double fenced line which we believe will improve the reliability of being able to ski back to your car in Coire na Ciste from the M2 / Daylodge Poma. And of course, if you were staying in our new redesigned Base Area, you will be able to ski back to your accommodation!

Anyhow, enjoy the Valentine’s Day snow, folks – oh, and for the avoidance of doubt, a pair of skis is allowed to count as a significant other!

In the meantime, please don’t forget to ‘like’ us on Facebook, or ‘share’ with the buttons below. And as ever, you can show your support for the redevelopment of Coire na Ciste and its chairlifts by signing our e-Petition which remains live at

Picture: a full line of skiers on both the West Wall and Coire na Ciste Chairlifts, with a full Coire na Ciste carpark behind. We are working hard to prove the financial case to make this a reality once again.


“Invest or be left behind”

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 11.53.02

Last week Save the Ciste received a two page spread in Strathspey and Badenoch Herald. The article reveals several of the exciting ski tow developments that are due to take place at Scotland’s other ski centres over the coming few years, and highlights the necessity for investment on Cairn Gorm too.

The article comes as the Ptarmigan Bowl beginner ski lifts at the top of Cairn Gorm remain closed for a sixth consecutive day due to high winds, which underlines the need for a dedicated low level and sheltered beginner area on CairnGorm, as well as improved access to advanced terrain necessary for CairnGorm Mountain to maintain its status as Scotland’s premier ski destination for all ability levels.

We believe that our multi-stage proposals for the redevelopment of Coire na Ciste will provide that positive change. You can now read the articles in full below by clicking on the PDF links below – many thanks once again to the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald for allowing us to reproduce these articles in full.

Have you read the article? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think! Please like and share, and show us your support by signing our e-petition.




Allt na Ciste Hydro Scheme: Extra benefits for skiers!

Funding the Ciste Redevelopment Project + Providing a Guaranteed Cash Flow: we propose a small-scale Hydro-Electric Scheme in Coire na Ciste which will have a calculated minimum income of £68,320 per annum [at 2012 figures]. This forms part of our phased plans, which will see the redevelopment project partially self-funded.

More detail can be found on our page.

The potential for hydro power on the Allt na Ciste had previously been investigated in a consultancy report prepared by John Duncanson Engineering Ltd in 2012. We hold documented evidence from the 1990’s [not made available to the consultant] that burn flow rates are greater than the 2012 hydrological desk study suggested, which would increase energy produced – and therefore income – to above the 2012 estimations.

The micro dam at the water intake will be carefully planned and managed to not adversely effect either the Ciste Gully ski run, or the safety of skiers in the area. Indeed a direct benefit to snowsports users it is that the hydro scheme will by reducing flows in the Allt na Ciste reduce melt of the snow from below by the running water. This will therefore increase both the length of snow lie in the Ciste Gully and lower the elevation at which skiable snow builds in any given season. This will therefore extend the length of the ski season.


This benefit can be extended by the provision of a tail race pipe which puts the water back into the Allt na Ciste at Carpark Level during the snowsports season, while allowing water to be returned nearer the turbine house in summer. The combination of reduced flow in the Allt na Ciste and Snow Making has the provision to make skiing to the Ciste Carpark via the Lower Aonach and Lower Ciste Gully a regular feature through the core of the snowsports season, providing huge operational benefits for the operating company and much greater customer satisfaction.


The turbine house itself will be of an environmentally sensitive design, partly built into the hillside. It will also include a small viewing gallery and environmental education centre, as well as a food & drink servery and ski school meeting point, by a proposed dedicated learning zone on the floor of the lower reaches of Coire na Ciste. A learning zone that would be far more sheltered than any existing area on the mountain used for teaching new comers to skiing and snowboarding.


We’re pretty excited about the possibilities here. Look out for more from the ‘Save the Ciste’ Development Action Group in this coming Thursday’s (25 January) Strathspey & Badenoch Herald. In the meantime, don’t forget to like and share, and let us know what you think! Also a reminder that our e-petition is still running, in which you can show your support:

Map image Ordnance Survey © Crown copyright 2014


Outline of our proposals in the Strathy

Save the Ciste publicly announced an outline of our proposals for the future redevelop Coire na Ciste on CairnGorm in the Strathy on Thursday 15th January. The group’s proposals are being worked up from the original Save the Ciste manifesto at the invitation of the new operator, Natural Retreats to redevelop the area into an exciting year round destination, while respecting the mountain landscape through sensitive replacement of current derelict but much needed facilities.

Attached below is the full article by Editor Gav Musgrove in the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald, following a private presentation at Campaign HQ in Aviemore where we gave an exclusive insight into our proposals.

Have you read it? Let us know what you think, or add your voice of support by signing the e-petition at

A follow up article has is due to be published on Thursday, 29 January, be sure to get your copy of the Strathy.

Front Page

Save the Ciste outline plans


An example of why the Ciste is vital to CairnGorm Mountain

Sunday on CairnGorm, was an example of just how vital a redeveloped Coire na Ciste would be. The two Ptarmigan Bowl ski tows were closed due to weather, but the Lower Ciste chairlift could have be running to provide access to our planned new world class terrain park in the mid-coire area, plus blue & green runs back to the Ciste carpark, and – very significantly – access to a dedicated new learning zone in the area below the Lower Aonach on the floor of the core that is low down and sheltered, providing a better learning environment.

Such a Ciste learning area would provide the opportunity to sell all-inclusive packages: accommodation and meals (as part of our proposed redevelopment of the Ciste Base Area), lift passes, equipment hire and ski school lessons. The plans for the mid-coire area would be snow-reliable for up to 100 days per season with the introduction of a snowmaking operation, but even when there is no snow a neveplast slope would act as a winter back-up, and of course can be for summer use.

Picture taken looking into the core on Saturday: just look at that West Wall!!


Coire na Ciste – Strathy feature article

The campaign recently invited Gav Musgrove, the Editor of the Strathspey and Badenoch Herald, to our Campaign HQ in Aviemore for an exclusive insight into the team’s proposals for the future re/development of Coire na Ciste.


This phased series of proposals, with the reinstatement of both chairlifts included, will also include a hydro scheme with interpretative centre, accommodation and redevelopment/landscaping of the Ciste Base Area, snowmaking to cover a world class terrain park and children’s learning area in the area of the Lower Aonach, associated uplift modifications/developments in the mid-coire area, new mountain services/facilities, and mountain biking trails and trailhead.

The initial article appears on the front page of this weeks edition to provide an overview, and we would encourage interested persons to pick up a copy to learn more. Have you read it? Let us know what you think. In the meantime, the campaign team remain busy working in consultation with relevant industries and bodies to continue the development of our proposals, and to help further prove the financial and economic case. Enjoy the snow and don’t forget to like and share the article either on here or our Facebook Page, thanks



A chill in the air…

Snow making is underway today on the Zig Zags that bypass the Gunbarrel in Coire Cas on CairnGorm Mountain. You can make out the plumes of snow on the mid-mountain webcam at the SSC Hut looking towards the Fiacaill. If the snow-gun icon is green on the SSC Hut weather data table on Winterhighland’s mid-mountain webcam page then conditions are likely suitable for the T40 guns.


Success of snow making isn’t just about temperature to make snow, it’s about minimising the melt too – which is why the sheltered lower slopes of Coire na Ciste have exciting potential with modern snowmaking to provide fantastic new options for novices and early intermediates on CairnGorm Mountain at a level where conditions will be much more friendly more often than at the top of the mountain.


Presentation to Natural Retreats

Save the Ciste campaign group is pleased to confirm that our meeting with Natural Retreats took place as scheduled on CairnGorm Mountain on the morning of Thursday 27th November.

Kids Learning Zone

We presented our outline proposals for a multifaceted redevelopment of Coire na Ciste, that will provide enhanced experience for snowsport customers of all ability levels as well as bringing about environmental improvements within the Ciste. Our proposals now extend well beyond simple reinstatement of the Chairlifts and indeed would enhance the chairlifts by making them more user friendly for less experienced skiers and boarders, as well as providing for walk on/off use opening up the scope for use beyond snowsports.

Our plans were very well received by Natural Retreats and particularly the potential to take advantage of modern snow making systems to utilise the terrain in the lower portion of the Coire for novices, snowplough tuners and a dedicated kids learning zone, sheltered from the worst ravages of the weather that can regularly affect the upper Mountain and the Ptarmigan Bowl.

The Map provides an indicative placement for the segregated learning zone that would be served by a magic carpet or handle rope tow. The provision of toilet facilities and a warming hut incorporated into a potential Hydro Electric Turbine building immediately adjacent to the learning zone in proximity to the proposed mid-line load/unload area on the Ciste Chair (red circle) would provide an ideal learning environment on the most sheltered area of the mountain. Located at lower elevation and hidden from the Strath beyond flood-lighting would provide a new opportunity to provide first time snowsports instruction to local school children on weekday evenings.



It was agreed with Natural Retreats senior management that the campaign group will continue to develop these proposals over the coming months and we will continue to keep supporters informed via Facebook and our blog at .