The very first time I rode on a real mountain was at Glencoe, Scotland – twenty years ago on a foggy April day.
I had never used a T Bar before, so copied what I thought the skiers were doing and sat on the bar with both feet strapped in. I caught my toe edge about six metres in, and then proceeded to get pulled up the entire drag lift on my knees with the t-bar firmly wedged behind my legs.
Fast forward 20 years and I find myself in a very fortunate position as a presenter for Ski Sunday, heading back to Glencoe to film a piece about the 60th birthday of one of Scotland’s first ski areas. I was stoked!
I have to say that I went there with a little trepidation – not because of the drag lifts, but because of the infamous weather. Even though I’d not revisited Glencoe, I’ve been riding in Scotland a few times, and every time the weather has been horrible!
This time would be different, it seemed – the forecast was looking good! Euan Southcott (Ski Sunday Director/Producer) picked me up in Birmingham en route, and we drove the easy six hours north.
We arrived in the dark at our amazing little B&B, 15 miles past the ski resort – actually Euan’s Dad’s place. We had driven through some rain and snowy patches, so we thought we might just get a little bit lucky the next day, but when we woke, it turns out we’d hit the Jackpot! Not only was there almost no wind and blue skies, but we’d been blessed with some fresh new snow. I was like a kid at Christmas!
It’s very easy to forget how amazing the scenery is in The Highlands – it’s proper postcard stuff. Billy Connelly says that even though he’s travelled the world and seen some incredible sights, The Highlands are still the most beautiful of them all. I think he might be right! Plus they filmed some of the new Star Wars up there and they can’t be wrong.
The cold air that fills your lungs and the white mountains everywhere added to the excitement and we were frothing to get up there. We got to the base area at Glencoe Mountain resort, had the best ever Ham and Cheese toasty, filmed some of the necessary TV links that we needed to make the piece, and set about going riding.
When Glencoe open 60 years ago, you would have had the slog an hour and a half up the mountain just to get to the first lift, but it has had an access lift from the car park and base area up to the main resort for decades. We arrived up on the plateaux and it was just amazing. Again, it’s easy to forget that your in the UK. It was snowy, there were lifts. We were in a ski resort! I was like a Husky straining on the lead, but we had a few more bits to film. Once they were done we were let loose!
What a day! With fresh snow and blue skies and about 35 people on the whole mountain, we were in heaven. Admittedly it was a Thursday so the normal man was working, apart from Syndicate boss Sketch, and Oakley Team manager Scott McMorris who both came up to ride with us!
The views up there were next level, and the ski resort is actually pretty rad. It’s quite a natural spot – it’s bumpy, it’s rugged, but that’s the charm. It’s definitely a ‘riders’ mountain, and we’d benefitted from the new snow and great weather. Although I usually look to Europe when thinking of a winter trip, if you time it right, a winter staycation in Scotland can be as rad as it gets!
What an experience! We met some rad locals, we rode an amazing little resort, on some epic snow in our own country just six hours from my own bed. I was blown away.
To end the day we met Phillip Rankin, the guy who built the first lift on the hill some 60 years ago! A 98 year former Spitfire pilot, he got tired of walking up the hill to ski, so decided to build a ski lift – he and his mates dragged the entire first lift up there by hand during one summer! Now that is dedication.
We filmed the lot and the final piece will be on Ski Sunday on 31st January 2016.
GLENCOE MOUNTAIN RESORT.
A six hour drive from Birmingham or less than two from Glasgow
Just £25 for a weekday pass. (£32 weekend)
Full rental centre
Free Sledges for kids