Since the initiation of the ‘Core Lifts’ policy in the middle of the last decade effectively 50% of mid-mountain uplift capacity has been lost, while 100% of low level capacity has been maintained in Coire Cas. The West Wall Chairlift is quite simply the only game in town for a short to medium term increase in mid mountain capacity.
Why CairnGorm Mountain needs the Coire na Ciste Chairlift more than ever?
Following the removal of the Aonach Poma in 2010 the Coire na Ciste Chairlift is now more important than ever for securing the full lift-served terrain.
Alterations to the Coire na Ciste Chairlift to provide mid-line loading would allow the Chair to replace the former Aonach Poma. This would greatly increase the benefits of reinstating the Coire na Ciste Chairlift, and restore the full lift-served ski area.
A Manifesto for Coire na Ciste
Only the reinstatement of the Coire na Ciste Chairlift, West Wall Chairlift, and [a minimum of] basic base facilities in Coire na Ciste can allow for the full potential benefits (in terms of customer stratification and experience, plus financial gains for the operating company) to be maximised.
To best utilise the two Coire na Ciste Chairlifts and to receive the greatest return/benefit from investment in their reinstatement, the works should go beyond reinstating them to just an ‘as was’ state. A number of additional improvements could and should be made. This is our Manifesto for Coire na Ciste:
- Reinstate both the Coire na Ciste and West Wall Chairlifts, accepting that they are an inseparable and interdependent single entity reliant on each other to enable full realisation of the potential benefits.
- Operation of both Ciste Chairlifts would provide climbers, walkers and tourers with the option of using mechanical uplift to access the upper mountain. Thus encouraging climbers, walkers and ski-tourers to the Ciste Carpark, freeing up space in the Cas Carpark for those needing access to the services there.
– Coire na Ciste Chairlift:
- Provide for mid-line loading (both up and down) on the Coire na Ciste Chairlift to replace the decommissioned Aonach Poma.
- Remodel base unload area to enable both ski off and walk off downloading on the Ciste Chair
- Remove the existing unsightly up-line off-loading ramp on the Coire na Ciste Chairlift. Replace with a shallower off-loading ramp adjacent to the bullwheel to allow for bullwheel unloading.
– Chairlift Mid-Station:
- Changes on the Coire na Ciste Chairlift will result in its off-load point being brought closer to the load point of the West Wall Chairlift, and reduce required staffing levels.
- Provide a new unified lift shack at the Chairlift Mid-Station with dual controls and a view of both lifts. At quiet times with suitable procedures in place it should be possible for a single lift-attendant to manage both Chairlifts from the Chairlift Mid-Station.
- Re-model the Chairlift Mid-Station to improve lift interchange, reduce the steel superstructure and therefore also reduce the visual impact of these two Chairlifts.
– West Wall Chairlift:
- The West Wall Chairlift is fully capable of regular downloading. Reconfigre both top and mid station to provide regular downloading on the West Wall Chairlift.
- Downloading removes the main reason for restricting access to more advanced abilities, as well as greatly increasing the appeal of accessing the mountain by the Coire na Ciste Chairlifts. This would also open up the potential of non-skier income.
- Except in limited snow cover, more confident skiers/boarders returning to the Coire na Ciste Carpark would ski the runs served by the West Wall Chairlift and download only on the Coire na Ciste Chairlift. The majority of downloads on the West Wall Chairlift would therefore be non-skiers or less confident/inexperienced skiers. It is therefore reasonable to provide solely walk-on/walk-off downloading on the West Wall Chairlift.
- Re-model the lower station of the West Wall Chairlift to enable walk-off downloading.
- Completely remove the existing off-ramp superstructure at the top station of the West Wall Chairlift. Reduction in visual impact.
- Build a shallower bullwheel unload ramp into the ground at the top of the West Wall Chairlift, again with sufficient flat lead-in to enable walk-off unloading.
- Build a new wooden deck top-station on the gully side of the West Wall Chairlift’s top drive station for downloading. Provide a new lift shack adjacent to the drive station.
– Catering and snow-fence improvements:
- Explore options for at least a basic refreshment facility at the base of the Coire na Ciste T-bar.
- Re-model the snow fences on the site of the old Link Lift Poma to reliably extend OverYonder to the West Wall Chairlift. Adjust the OverYonder approach to the Aonach Bowl to improve durability.
- From the West Wall Chairlift’s top station, create a new fenced run – the ‘Bynack Traverse’. This should take advantage of a series of natural ledges that would give a traverse round the hillside to provide direct access to the Aonach Bowl and much of the M2, without requiring the use of the Coire na Ciste T-Bar.
- The ‘Bynack Traverse’ will have mostly east/west fence alignments, catching snow on north winds and south winds drifting snow off the higher areas. The natural terrain ledges in this area provide scope for a run of not dissimilar profile and aspect to the snow-sure Coire Cas Traverse.
- The ‘Bynack Traverse’ and extended OverYonder in conjunction with the West Wall Chairlift will open up the M2/OverYonder to familes and intermediate snowboarders currently unwilling or unable to use the West Wall Poma.
We are acutely aware that there are competing needs for funding on CairnGorm Mountain. We know that catering capacity and offerings are presently a significant issue, and we welcome Natural Retreats intention to address these areas.
Even considering these factors, it is our view that the re-instatement of the Coire na Ciste and West Wall Chairlifts should be the number one priority. Benefits from their re-instatement will be positive for the operating company, its employees, its customers and also for the wider community (hotels, guest houses, B&B’s and other local businesses) who have much to gain from an increased number of users on CairnGorm Mountain. All stand to benefit from a re-expansion of the snow-sports business.