Lower Aonach – An asset that needs reclaimed

In our previous blog post we made mention of the potential for a new dedicated terrain park area on the lower half of the Aonach Bowl, a run which is currently only partly lift served due to the loss of the Aonach Poma and non-operation of the Coire na Ciste Chairlift.

Snow Making on the lower mountain.
Snow Making on the lower mountain.

The full length of the Aonach is many a people’s favourite for the variety it offers in one run. Sadly this has been a run that’s only been possible in recent years when it’s been possible to ski to the Ciste Carpark via the Ciste Gully – always a rare treat due to a combination of it’s lower altitude and it’s relative shelter.

However the data collected for snow making research in Coire Cas shows that this area has great potential, with uplift provided by a new mid-line loading station on the Coire na Ciste Chairlift around 100 to 150m below where the former Aonach Poma terminated.

SavetheCiste believes not only would this bring the full length of the delightful Aonach Run back into regular use, but it’s sheltered location compared to most of the mountain makes it an ideal location for aiming to fulfil one of Natural Retreats key visions for CairnGorm Mountain, which is the provision of top notch Terrain Parks. Snow making is used extensively in park construction around the world, the control over the type of snow produced enabling the right building material for the job in hand.

Rail Slide in the Ptarmigan Terrain Park
Van's Rail in the Ptarmigan Bowl in late Spring.

A significant Terrain Park in the shelter of the lower Aonach would be easier to maintain due to less stormy conditions. Such a park would also be less affected by high winds and poor visibility from low cloud, which restricts use of the Ptarmigan Park at the top of the mountain. The capacity of the Ciste Chair which historically was principally an access lift with relatively little use throughout the day except in exceptional conditions would be better utilised, the Aonach Park would thus be directly lift served, while having the crucial benefit for all users in reducing congestion in the Ptarmigan Bowl, where queues for the Ptarmigan Tow can be particularly lengthy.

We do not envisage this being the sole park location, but we do see it potentially as the mainstream park that is most suitable for the largest range of users and at this very early stage would consider an early intermediate line and an upper intermediate to advanced line – running side by side. The Ptarmigan Bowl due to it’s terrain and huge snow trapping potential would remain the obvious place for large expert kickers particularly later in the season and the Sheiling Tow has proven itself to be an excellent location for novice freestyle features over the past couple of seasons.

SaveTheCiste would greatly welcome feedback and contributions from those who would wish to use such facilities and those with a keen interest in competitive freestyle events and/or those with experience of building and maintaining high end terrain parks.

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