Rethinking Coire na Ciste to reinvigorate CairnGorm Mountain

Written by savetheciste on January 12th, 2016

We are pleased to announce the summary of our proposals for the re-development of Coire na Ciste. It took a bit longer than we expected – everything has been done by volunteer effort and we’re grateful to numerous companies and individuals who’ve given their time to get this proposal to where it is.
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We’ve been very sensitive to the necessity of having a commercially viable proposition and appropriate year round use has therefore been at the forefront of our thinking. One of the key points in the 2011 strategic review of Scottish Snowspnorts by HIE was that diversification must be appropriate and carefully thought out such that the diversification does not in itself add financially burdensome niche markets.

Notwithstanding issues connected with planning consent and capital requirements, the phasing of the re-development proposals is something that would have to be carefully considered by the operator – a particularly big decision needed early is whether to reinstate the West Wall or Coire na Ciste Chair first.

We are aware that there will be a number of readers who regard the current situation as being an opportunity for removal of all infrastructure from Coire na Ciste to improve the mountain environment. However, the terminal loss of Coire na Ciste would be hugely detrimental to the future potential of CairnGorm Mountain and would see local businesses throughout the Strath suffer as skiers and boarders abandon CairnGorm Mountain in search of more challenging terrain.

Save the Ciste agrees that Coire na Ciste is currently a mess that is unacceptable for a mountain at the heart of one of Europe’s largest National Parks, however this is largely down to the dilapidations and debris within the Ciste and that re-developing the previously developed area, can greatly improve the visual appearance of the Coire and provide a welcoming base for visitors to the Eastern side of CairnGorm. An enhanced footpath network will address some potential issues of erosion in and around the Ciste, by channeling hill goers on a robust track/path rather than numerous poorly defined and increasingly braided boggy routes. It is also worth noting that built snowsports infrastructure is regularly used for cover from predicators and shelter by mountain birds and mammals, ptarmigan families are regularly seen huddled against snow fences.

Our proposed redevelopment is summarised as follows: could be as follows:

  1. Construction of a carefully sited access track from the Ciste carpark base station to the chairlift interchange at mid-station. (This will also provide in part for an alternative ski route to the Ciste Base).
  2. Re-commissioning of the Ciste Chair. This would incorporate a mid-line loading/unloading station at approx 600m from the base station. The top station download/upload would be re-engineered to enable walk off/walk on downloading/uploading [rather than the download ramp that was in use in the past]
  3. Construction of a small scale Hydro plant [90kW]. The intake dam [grated for safety] would be at a level just below where Gully No1 joIns the Allt na Ciste. The power house would be built on the coire floor at approx 650m from the Ciste base station.
  4. The power house would incorporate a turbine viewing gallery, environmental education centre together with a servery and seating area that would double up as a ski school meeting room, in winter. Toilets would also be included.map
  5. A Kassbohrer garage and associated workshop to be unobtrusively built into the [west] side of the coire….in proximity to the mid-line loading area.
  6. A snowsports learning zone. This would be located immediately downhill from the power house and would be served by a rope tow.Kids Learning Zone
  7. An early learners piste [served by snowmaking] would run down to the ciste carpark steps…a distance of approx 650m with a slope of around 6 degrees. Some re-engineering of the burn course and water diversion associated with the Hydro Electric scheme to deal with safety issues regarding the Allt na Ciste through the narrow lower gully.Lower Ciste Gully
  8. A neveplast slope on the West side of the coire…adjacent to the Ciste chair mid line loading area. This slope would be 60m long by 30m wide initially and would be served by a magic carpet running up the centre and with a rope tow at one edge. The slope would be capable of being extended to 100m+ at a later stage. In addition, there would be a flat area at the bottom, for standing classes.
  9. A snow-park, served by snowmaking, in the area of the lower Aonach. The would be lift served by the Ciste chair with uplift from the mid-line loading area.Machine Packed Powder on the Lower Aonach, below the WWP in March 2013.
    A fenced piste from the Aonach passing above the top of the NevePlast slope and on to the Ciste base station. This would provide an alternative piste to the carpark and also provide for ski in/ski out accommodation, [when conditions allow].
  10. The re-commissioning of the WW Chair, with re-modelled terminals to remove existent steel gantries and to provide walk on / walk off downloading for less experienced skiers & boarders + non skiing visitors.
  11. A new boardwalk to be constructed…..of stone, metal or wood…..this is essential for the future of snowsports within Coire na Ciste, even without the re-development proposals being taken up.
  12. A new Ciste base station. The design and scale can only be planned once a decision has been made about the proposals.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  13. Accommodation to be built on the Moraine bank to the right of the Ciste base station [as you look up the Coire] This area is capable of having up to 25 Hobbit style lodges. The small lochan here would be developed as a feature.
  14. Campervan Hook Up’s. About 15 in number.
  15. A Zip slide. [site and length to be decided]
  16. Mountain Biking…..to be discussed/decided……but only incorporated at a later phase of development and should be coordinated with Glenmore projects to provide an integrated mountain and forest mountain bike trail centre with the Ciste Base and Carpark as the focal point and trail head facilities.
  17. In addition, we are proposing that floodlights would be installed on the Ciste Chair towers and on the NevePlast slope. This would make evening snowsports and lessons possible on a planned basis. It would also extend the ski day further up the Ciste when days are shortest by giving more time for people to return to the Carpark.

Footpath network within and from Coire na Ciste

It’s our view that it would also make good sense to have a properly constructed path built on the east side of the Allt na Ciste, adjacent to the burn. This would cross the Alt na Ciste to tie into the boardwalk and make a circular path by returning to the Ciste base station via the access track (with a coffee stop at the power house servery, perhaps).

In addition sections of path to provide a fully integrated network from / within Coire na Ciste:

  • The footpath which climbs from the Laogh Mor boardwalk steps up above the lower East Wall should be extended to tie into the top of the West Wall Chairlif and footpath to the Ptarmigan Restaurant.
  • The old skiers path which is still just traceable across the Aonach Bowl should be reinstated to link the mid-station of Coire na Ciste to the Windy Ridge Footpath – and thus to the Daylodge and Coire na Ciste Carpark.
  • Potential future ‘nature walk’ along the tree line to Lochan na Beinnie.

We were in touch with NR senior management in early December and we’d like to give them some further time to get back to us with a date/time for meeting to discuss the projected costs before we publish them.

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