Behind The Scenes

We have created this new blog to keep those interested up-to-date with the most recent developments that are taking place onsite at CairnGorm Mountain. The team do a huge amount of work behind the scenes in both the summer and winter and we would like to keep everyone informed on everything we are up to.

New Fencing: 20th January

We have taken advantage of this mild spell, using snow cover we still have, to continue with our fencing plans and old fencing clear up operations. A lot of old fencing has been removed from the M2 and West Wall areas and also new fencing materials  put in location ready for this year’s fencing plan. – Ops1

The Winch Cat

The Winch Cat in action on the slopes of CairnGorm Mountain

Incredible sunrise views of the Winch Cat in action

Winch Cat in action removing and relocating fencing

The Winch Cat easily relocating old fencing

The Winch Cat

The steeper the better!

During The Removal Process

Storing of removed fencing from West Wall area prior to disposal from mountain

Storing of removed fencing from West Wall area prior to disposal from mountain

Relocating fencing materials ready for summer fencing programme

Office Perks

What an incredible view to work against, above the clouds it is truly spectacular!

Thank you to all the positive comments from our customers regarding our fencing operations and the appreciation of the effort and timescales involved. This project is going to take several seasons to deliver but the benefits for snow capture in the next 15 to 20 years will be vitally important.

West Wall Poma: 30th December

During the warm windy conditions on the 29th December, the team removed the old, stored chestnut fencing that is being replaced. Access to locations like the West Wall Poma is very difficult due to steep slopes and needs to be undertaken during the correct time to minimise ground pressures and for the safety of our staff.

Above you can see the steepest section of the West Wall Poma uptrack where the PB600 Winchcat is removing old, stockpiled fencing using the new log grab which was commissioned last season.

Last year our team worked with manufacturers to design implements for our Winch Cat which has improved our ability to remove and install snow fencing on the most challenging terrain within the ski area. This also requires highly skilled drivers using the correct snow conditions to safely conduct the task. The new log grab has allowed the compaction of broken fencing to maximise loads and we now have the ability to reduce manual handling and increase the volume of redundant fencing extraction.

In the image above you can see the winch cable which is attached to the back of the machine. This cable is anchored to a fixed point at the top of the steep section. It’s important to note that without this system the piste machine would not be able to access this area in the majority of conditions.

Above you can see how the ‘log grab’ works in practice; compacting redundant snow fencing in it’s claw. By working in this way, and on snow, we can minimise the ground pressure and number of trips required for the task. By storing the redundant fencing in the summer months and waiting for the snow, we are then able to reduce the environmental impact in the area.

The skills required for this job are significant as the terrain is steep and the access route can be very narrow. In this picture above the PB600 is using the winch (previously pictured) to reverse back up the steep terrain for about 400m.

We are working to a fencing plan to renew lines and maximise our potential of catching snow particularly in stormy conditions which often have a very small window of opportunity. The task of replacing and removing broken and redundant fencing should not be underestimated as we have around 32.5km still to be completed. Last summer our small fencing team hand dug every post on the steep section of the West Wall Poma track, down to the elevation where the orientation of the fence is less critical for catching snow as the area becomes more sheltered. The more exposed upper track is critical with snow moving in higher winds. The ground conditions were also a factor at this elevation as peat becomes dominant and posts less secure by hand digging.

The picture above shows the current snow levels towards the bottom of the West Wall Poma. The lower section of fencing is scheduled to be replaced this winter using the PB600 with the newly fitted ‘post-chapper’. The reason for this is that the post-chapper would be unable to access this area in the summer. The ground conditions in this area are predominately peat which means that the post-chapper is better suited (for post stability) than hand digging. With lots to do, we have to prioritize works, but you can see from this image taken yesterday, we have fenced the areas that are exposed to high winds and drifting snow. We have favoured these areas over the bowl and at the base of the lift where we need huge quantities of snow before drifting will take place as it is more sheltered.

The lower section of the WWP track will be completed during this winter as planned, using our newly designed post chapper mounted on our Winch Cat. The scale of the replacement of snow fencing requires concentrating time and manpower on the areas that will make the most difference in the short term and then moving into secondary areas further out. Our primary objective was to renew fencing from the Top station to the Base station which was achieved within the first two summers. The next priority was to renew the fencing from the top of the Ptarmigan tow to the top station and into the Ptarmigan bowl, along with the complete replacement of the White Lady Elephant fence and the White Lady fences which were also all hand dug. Over the past two summers we have concentrated on the Ciste Fairway, the M2 and steepest section of the West Wall Poma all of which have the most exposure to winds within the ski area, they also have the most potential to catch snow which is normally lost in the strongest storms.

During storms which strip the mountain of it’s snow, this new fencing will help catch drifts as can be seen in the picture above. This new fencing was put in above the top station in the summer and is already demonstrating the positive impact that these methods will have in the winter season. Once the drifts have built up around these fences the piste machines can then push the snow out to link runs together which allowed us to open at the start of the week.

This image shows winds speeds in excess of of 80mph and how the new fencing is the only thing preventing the snow blowing away. The previous fencing in these areas would not have caught any snow under these circumstances.

Thank you to all the positive comments from our customers regarding our fencing operations and the appreciation of the effort and timescales involved. This project is going to take several seasons to deliver but the benefits for snow capture in the next 15 to 20 years will be vitally important.

Autumn Update: 11th October

Sorry it’s been a while since our last update, but the team have been cracking on getting the mountain ready for the 2016/17 season! The recent spell of dry and settled weather has helped us make good progress with many of our ongoing projects and it has also aided the growth of the reinstatement works in the Sheiling area. The before and after pictures below show the difference that just a few weeks can make.


The West Wall Poma project is progressing well, with the steel work installation scheduled to commence on Monday 17th of October. The picture below shows a 20 tonne excavator which has been instrumental in most of the excavations, ground works and lifting and positioning equipment. In this image you can see the driver creating a path of pads for travelling over the route to Tower 16.


As you can imagine, working in this way significantly increases the time take taken to complete tasks, but it is extremely important to us to work in this manner in order to reduce the environmental impact. This will in turn reduce the time needed to restore the area to it’s former condition.

Tower 16 has now been lifted out prior to the new foundations being installed. Once this foundation has set, the tower will be re-positioned. Below you can see work in progress on the new return station foundations.


We are also delighted to announce that we are also about to take delivery of new snowplough/gritter for the 2016/17 season, This new machine will help the team in keeping the access roads open during the winter months, as well as getting it open after period of severe weather and snowfall.


Late Summer Update: 7th September

Burial of the new safety-circuit cabling is now well under way on the Coire na Ciste T-Bar. Having this cabling in place underground will greatly reduce the risk down of downtime during the winter season. Laying the cable underground means that the it will be more protected during the winter months. It will make it easier for the team to identify and fix any line faults that may occur during the winter season. Below you can see a digger starting work on the initial trench that that cable will go into. This ground will be fully reinstated once the entire cable is laid.


Below you can see the trenching and cable-laying works in progress. The team expect to complete these works by the end of September.


The project to replace the return station of the West Wall Poma is also now well underway. These works involve the removal of the old return station setup, and installation of a completely new hydraulic return station. The existing top two towers of the two are also being relocated as part of this process. This project will make the lift safer to maintain and operate in the winter and also reduce downtime when the infrastructure experiences heavily ice build-up (a frequent occurrence at the top of our mountain). Rather than simply replace the return station like for like, Natural Retreats are going to be taking advantage of this opportunity by extending the tow itself and therefore make it easier for skiers and boarders to access the Top Station from the West Wall Poma. Below you can that see Tower 17 has already been removed and laid down, ready for relocation.


The picture below, on the left-handside, shows work in progress excavating for new foundations and off-ramp at the site where the new return station shall be. The picture on the right hand-side shows the old station that has now already been removed.


There has also been a significant amount of work done this summer on the Car Park T-Bar. In the picture below you should be able to see the new lifting frames that have been installed to the top of each of the towers on the T-Bar. Again, the reason for these installations is to significantly reduce the lift downtime during the winter season. One of the main reasons for operational downtime on any T-Bar is derailment. This can be either due to windy conditions or customer mishaps. Historically, this has taken the team time to rectify, especially in wintry conditions. The installation of these new lifting frames will significantly reduce the time in which the haul-rope can be replaced and therefore ensure that the tow is able to run for longer during the winter season.

PermamnentLifting frames installed to Car Park T bar towers will mean more efficient and safer maintenance and less downtime after derailments

Fencing Update: 26th August

Despite the best attempts of the ferocious midges, the fencing team have been making some excellent progress on the M2 and West Wall areas. The boys have been digging in many of the posts by hand on the steeper sections of the West Wall Poma uptrack, while we have used the post-driving tractor to drive in the posts on the skiers left of the M2. The post driving unit is now nearing the bottom of the M2 run, just above the top of the Day Lodge Poma. Once all of these posts are in place the team will then start nailing on the rails. This new fence will hopefully prolong the winter season, by improving access to the West Wall Poma and back to the Day Lodge. These works are running on schedule and are expected to be completed prior to the start of the the 2016/17 season.


Below you can see fencer Doogs nailing on the railings at the West Wall Poma Uptrack, accompanied by a his rather enthusiastic assistant, Druie. Below on the right, you can see the post-driving unit in action on the M2.



Reinstatement of Embankment: 11th August

Recently the team have been working on essential repairs to strengthen the existing loading area of the Cas T-Bar and remove the elevated queuing platform. This work was required in order to make the structure safer following a comprehensive engineer’s inspection. As we needed to ensure that the tow would be able to run at the beginning of last season, we put a short-term solution in place.

Since the start of the summer we have been working on completing a longer term solution including the necessary groundworks. This solution has improved the line of sight for skiers approaching the cross-over into the Car Park T-Bar dismount area, which has always been an area of congestion. It has also created a safer and wider piste on the lowest Zig Zag and will improve snow making potential in this area, which will benefit many beginners next season on the main route to the base of the mountain. Now that the structural works are well underway, the team have been busy working on the reinstatement of the embankment between the Car Park T-Bar and the water tank at the pumping station, next to the Hill track.


Picture taken looking down the track towards the Car Park T-Bar from above. The blue pellets that can be seen are a hydro-seeding product which will protect soils and aid regeneration.

As part of the reinstatement and ground improvement work we are using Seed Aide (pictured above) a pelleted cellulose mulch which we used during the construction of the Funicular Railway. This mulch is blue in colour so that that covered areas can be clearly identified. Although it has a bright blue appearance at first, it will gradually ameliorate with water into a dull, green colour over time. We have used this technique for many past projects where it has been proven to enable regrowth and seeding by stabilising soils on steep banks. As it retains water it also reduces stress on vegetation during dry spells. Although we haven’t experienced many dry days this summer! It also creates a layer of protection beneath the snow cover, and during snow melt into the following growing season.Blog_Post

The pictures above were taken during and after the embankment was reshaped and the stored turfs were relaid. This reshaped area has smoothed previously bulldozed banks, that were created during the construction of the original hill road during the 1960’s. Below you can see work already underway to reinstate the vegetation in this area, using the techniques described above. When the snow falls in the winter, the new works will significantly widen the width of the piste which has historically always been a bottle-neck for skiers making their way down to the lower slopes.


Fencing and Reinstatement of Uptrack: 26th July

Another week at CairnGorm Mountain brings another list of improvements and nurturing of our beautiful mountain terrain. Much of our CPT uptrack has been reinstated after maintenance works, alongside some brilliant new fencing being laid along the West Wall Poma and West Wall Uptrack. In the Cas Gantry area, there’s been a focus on re-profiling the old bulldozed banks that hail from the 60’s ad 70’s, with great success. Check out our team photos below for another behind-the-scenes look at CairnGorm Mountain life…


Reinstatement of the CPT uptrack

Reinstatement of the CPT Uptrack

Reinstatement of the CPT Uptrack


The reinstatement of the Cas Gantry area and reprofiling of old bulldozed banks from the 60’s and 70’s


Old fencing dismantled, stacked, ready for uplift by piste machine in the winter

Our team are also working tirelessly, removing the rickety old fencing and bundling it up ready for winter – keep up the great work guys!

PicMonkey Image3

New fencing on the West Wall Uptrack

Reseeding and Landscaping: 22nd July

With the summer season upon us, our mountain teams are well and truly out in full force, rejuvenating and preparing the ground for another year of CairnGorm adventures. From our selection of images below, you can see that full-scale landscaping is underway, with our teams paying close attention to reseeding the grassy areas, to encourage wildlife and reinject some colour back into the landscape after the snow-laden winter season.


Completing groundworks and landscaping around the Coire Cas load area.

PicMonkey Collage

Reinstatement and reseeding around the Sheiling Sunkid area is nearing completion!

On our wonderful blue-sky days it’s easy to see how the mountain is transforming back into the lush, green landscape that’s usually hidden by the snow. With retaining the natural beauty of our incredible mountain always at the forefront of our team’s minds, you can see from the final image that we’ve reinstated the pathway and grassy banks after a whole host of new cabling.

PicMonkey Collage2

In the Sheiling Sunkid area, lighter green grass shows new growth of reseeded ground.


Here you can see the re-instated ground after cable laying works from the Car Park T bar Uptrack

Summer Fencing Plans: 15th July

Over the next few years we plan to completely replace all of the old style fencing on the slopes with the new post and rail fencing that you may have seen starting to appear over the last two summers. This new type of fencing has already been proven to capture and retain much more snow than the old chestnut fencing and will therefore aid us in improving snow-holding and potentially extending the snowsports season.The team are currently focusing on the M2 and West Wall Poma up-track.

Below you can see some of the old chestnut fencing being dismantled and bundled, ready for removal in the winter. In this picture you can also see the bundles of new posts that will be installed this summer. These posts were dropped off at key locations around the hill by helicopter.


As part of this process we have recently developed a post driving unit that can be mounted on the front of a piste machine. The piste machines can reach areas in the winter that cannot be reached during the summer months by conventional means, so with this new equipment we will be able to address areas (such as the M1 and the Day Lodge Ridge) much more efficiently that we have in the past. This new unit has been designed by our technical maintenance team in partnership with a post driver manufacturer and is thought to be the first of it’s kind, anywhere in the world! This prototype was developed by utilizing the parts and functionality of the extra Pipe Magician we purchased last summer. It has been tried and tested already and will be widely used this winter season.


Picture taken from Winter Highland.

Above you can see a picture of our existing pipe magician (blue) and the other one that was purchased to develop the new post-chapping unit described above (red). The yellow item is a log grab that was also purchased to assist with the fencing projects. This is also mounted on the front of a piste machine and will be used to move fencing around the hill and remove more of the old chestnut fencing. Below you can also see the finished prototype that we are now able to attach to the front of the piste machines.


The fencing team are making good progress, with a lot of time being spent dismantling and stacking the old chestnut fencing. The old fencing will be removed by piste machine when snowcover allows during the winter. The main areas we are addressing this year are the M2 run and West Wall Poma up track.

Cabling Works Nearing Completion: 15th July

The new electric cabling that the team have been installing on the Car Park T-Bar is now completely laid, so the team are now focusing on back-filling and ground reinstatement. Laying this cabling underground will significantly reduce the chance of faults and downtime on the Car Park T-Bar during the snowsports season. Over 50% of those that have filled out our winter survey so far have rated this as a hey area for improving uplift. You can still fill out this survey online here:

In the pictures above and below you can the ground reinstatement in progress as the team make their way down the line of the Car Park T-Bar.


Work Continues: 8th July 2016

Work is now well underway reinstating the ground within the Ski Area. The ranger team has been busy raking, preparing and re-seeding the ground in key areas such as the Lower Slopes. The main objective of these works is to reinstate the ground after the installation of the new Shieling Sunkid Megastar lift, last summer. As part of this restoration project we have also been able to rectify some of the ground that had previously been bulldozed or excavated in the 1960’s. Below you can see a before an after shot of this particular area, where the regrowth and regeneration of the flora is clearly visible. This work will continue throughout the summer and we will continue to post updates on our progress.

path definition work at sunkid

It’s not all about land management this week though, as the team crack on with annual maintenance on the piste bashers. All of our machines are exposed to the extreme weather conditions for long period of time during the winter months. This means that every summer all of our machines are completely re-serviced onsite by our in-house team to make sure they are in good working condition for the next winter season. Below, you can see our newest grooming machine, the PB600 Park Bully, being stripped down, inspected and overhauled.

Land Restoration: 1st July 2016

The team have been busy laying new electrical safety-circuit cabling to all towers on the Car Park T-Bar. This upgrade will help reduce downtime of the lift during the winter by making faults easier to identify and enabling quicker fixes. As part of this process we have also removed over 4km of old steel cabling which previously lay across the ground. The cabling that has been removed will be recycled at our local waste recycling centre. There are also plans to lay the same type of electric cabling on the Ciste T-Bar this summer. In order to complete these works the team needed to dig a trench to lay the cables. This work is ongoing and once completed the ground will be reinstated. The pictures seen below demonstrate this work in progress and we will post again once the works have been completed and the land fully restored.

Cable laying works

The team have also been restoring the top of the Hill Track which which was previously washed out as a result of the heavy rain earlier on in the year. Below you can see the before and after shots at this particular section of the track.

Hill track collage

The extent of the washout damage was not limited to just the top of the Hill Track. Other large sections of the track have also been restored below the Traverse and 105. Once these works have been completed we will be able to use the Hill Track to deliver part of our Mountain Biking product throughout the rest of the summer.

General before after hill track



Trial Pits: 29th June 2016

Today we are digging four trial pits beside the West Wall Poma lift, so you will see an excavator working near to the Ptarmigan Restaurant. The West Wall Poma return station has to be replaced this summer with a modern, safer system. The work today will help us design the new return station foundations, and limit disruption later on in the year.

Trial Pits

This work is agreed under Highland Council Planning and Ground Nesting Bird Surveys have been conducted.