Skiing in Scotland: The Ultimate Guide

Scotland is massively underrated as a skiing destination.

Not enough people visit the nation for slopes and snow, but way more should. You get lots of pistes, some world-class facilities, and excellent infrastructure. And on top of all that, the views are absolutely phenomenal.

So in this article, I’ve brought you the ultimate guide to skiing in Scotland. I’ve covered the best ski resorts in the nation, the top times to go, all the questions you might have, and your various indoor options for year-round fun.

I haven’t added information about prices, because prices frequently change—but I’ve given you the official url of every place I’ve included, so you can easily check the up-to-date costs.

Grab your skis, get your goggles on, and join us — Travelness is here with the ultimate guide to skiing in Scotland!

Skiing in Scotland

Is There Snow in Scotland for Skiing?

Yep! If you visit during the right season, there’s a surprisingly hefty amount of snow to ski in Scotland.

Broadly speaking, the best season is from December until late March (or early April if you’re lucky). The best months are January and February, which come with a guarantee of good snow.

In the highest parts of Scotland, there’s snow every year, so the nation is always ski-able if you visit in the right season.

You’ll find the best snow in and around the nation’s loftiest mountains—so that’s Ben Nevis, Glencoe and the Cairngorms. But there’s much more detail on that (and the ski centers you’ll find in those places!) coming up soon.

For more information have a look at my guide about Scotland in the winter.

Snow in Scotland

How Long is the Ski Season in Scotland?

It varies from year to year, depending on the weather (obviously!).

But the ski season in Scotland usually runs from December until late March, which is around 4 months. In colder years, it lasts longer—but in warmer years, the ski season can be as short as a couple of months.

When is the Best Time to Ski in Scotland?

The best time to ski in Scotland is between December and late March. But if you want the absolute best months, head to Scotland in January or February, when you get a guarantee of heavy snow and brilliant conditions.

Is Skiing in Scotland Any Good?

Yep, it’s brilliant. Vastly underrated, Scotland is a brilliant place to ski.

The slopes are accessible, the infrastructure is fantastic, and the costs are much lower than the ones you’ll find in places like the Alps or Japan.

And on top of all that, the views are incredible. People genuinely don’t realize just how beautiful Scotland actually is—and coated in snow, it can look even better. So get yourself to Scotland!

Glenshee Ski Center

How Many Ski Resorts and Ski Centres Are There in Scotland?

Scotland has 5 outdoor ski resorts. Three of them are in Cairngorms National Park, and the other two are close to Glencoe.

There are also lots of indoor skiing places in Scotland, both in cities and in rural areas. So you don’t have to go out into the middle of nowhere if you want some easy and accessible skiing in Scotland (or if you can’t visit in winter).

Coming up, I’ve covered all five outdoor ski resorts, and some of the better indoor skiing centers. No matter where you’re gonna be based in Scotland, and no matter what type of skiing you’re looking for, you’ll find something perfect on these lists. Let’s hit the slopes!

The Best Ski Resorts in Scotland

1. Glenshee Ski Center

  • Best for: Serious skiers, brilliant slopes, and enjoying the best ski center in Scotland
  • Number of pistes: 36
  • Total piste length: 40km (25 miles)
  • Longest piste: 2km (1.2 miles)
  • Recommended hotel: Braemar lodge hotel

The biggest ski resort in the UK, you’ll find this one in the Cairngorms National Park (the largest national park in Britain, where there are also two more ski centers). Most people agree this is the best ski center in Scotland.

Because the place is right on the main A93 road, it’s really easy to access, and massively popular. So make sure you buy your ski passes in advance!

Because it has a great reputation, the place is full of seasoned veterans, and lots of challenging slopes and routes. But it’s also great for beginners—you get group classes and 1-to-1 lessons, along with some surprisingly easy pistes.

Inside the center, you’ll find open bowls, narrow gullies, pisted areas, unpisted areas, and fantastic snowboarding—this place hosted the first-ever British Snowboard Championships. For quality and diversity, Glenshee Ski Center is the best skiing spot in Scotland.

It’s often really crowded, which deters some people—but don’t let that put you off.

The best accommodations around Glenshee Ski Center are in Braemar, which is really beautiful. Two top picks are Braemar Lodge Hotel (great for couples) and Ballater Hostel (perfect for budget stays). But if you’re traveling in a campervan, you can hook your van up in the ski center itself. Convenient!

2. Cairngorm Mountain Ski Center

  • Best for: Lots of snow, many beginner slopes, and tackling the highest ski run in Scotland
  • Number of pistes: 31
  • Total piste length: 30km (18.5 miles)
  • Longest piste: 3km (2 miles)
  • Recommended hotel: Cairngorm Hotel

This is the second-biggest ski center in Scotland, and it has the highest slope in the nation—the top point of the top slope sits at a lofty 1,230 meters (4,035 feet). As you probably guessed from its name, the ski center is on Cairngorm Mountain, the sixth-highest mountain in Scotland.

Because it’s at such a high altitude, snow here is thicker and heavier, and sticks around for much longer—so it’s a good choice if you want to ski outside of January and February.

Again, there are fantastic routes for all abilities—but with 13 beginner runs, it’s a great place for newbies. You can ski and snowboard, and get lessons in both. And on top of all that, there’s an on-site terrain park with jumps, rails and a bowl.

The place is popular with off-piste skiers, and even has fun activities in summer, if you can’t visit during the snowy season.

Cairngorm Mountain Ski Center is based next to Aviemore, one of the prettiest (and most tourist-heavy) towns in Scotland. The place is also relatively lively (for this part of the world), so it’s a good place to stay if you want decent restaurants, cafes and pubs along with great mountain scenery.

Two of the best accommodations in Aviemore are the High Range Lodge Hotel and the Cairngorm Hotel.

3. Lecht Ski Center

  • Best for: Beginners, casual skiers, and people traveling with kids
  • Number of pistes: 20
  • Total piste length: 26km (16 miles)
  • Longest piste: 1km (0.6 miles)
  • Recommended hotel: Richmond Arms Hotel

Next up, we’ve got the third (and final) ski center in the Cairngorms.

This is a great pick for families and people with kids, because there are loads of beginner-friendly features and attractions (including some fun magic carpets), along with lots of fun family-friendly routes.

There’s only one black-rated piste—but for advanced skiers, there’s also a timed slalom route along with a freestyle area.

Because it’s not the best place for serious skiers (and it’s the smallest ski center in Scotland), Lecht is often a little quieter than lots of the nation’s other resorts. So if you’re looking for somewhere without loads of crowds, it’s usually a pretty good option.

It’s at a lower altitude than other ski centers in Scotland, but they have an all-weather ‘SnowFactory’ for producing snow, even when the weather isn’t naturally ideal.

The best accommodations are in and around Tomintoul, which is around 6 miles (10km) from the slopes. Two of my favorites are the Smugglers Hostel (perfect for budget stays) and Richmond Arms Hotel (not perfect for budget stays), but it’s also possible to hook a campervan up in the car park.

4. Nevis Range Mountain Resort

  • Best for: Going off-piste, views of Scotland’s most famous mountains, and skiing close to Ben Nevis
  • Number of pistes: 54
  • Total piste length: 35km (22 miles)
  • Longest piste: 5km (3 miles)
  • Recommended hotel: Ben Nevis Hotel & Leisure Club

Alright, we’re finally moving away from the Cairngorms.

Now, we’re close to Ben Nevis (though you probably worked that out for yourself), the biggest mountain in Scotland.

If you ski here, you don’t ride down Ben Nevis, but you get great views of the peak and its surroundings—this is the highest ski resort in Scotland. Situated on Aonach Mòr (the 8th-highest mountain in the nation), the place is most famous for its so-called ‘mountain gondola,’ the only one of its type in the UK.

Nevis Range Mountain Resort is a big favorite for people who like to go off-piste skiing. Experienced and strong skiers can find loads of great off-piste and on-piste runs here, including several challenging black routes.

The best accommodations are mostly in Fort William, one of the most tourist-heavy towns in all of Scotland. Because it’s so popular, it has loads of conveniences, perfect if you’re traveling with kids. Two of the best accommodations in and around Fort William are Victoria House Bed and Breakfast and Ben Nevis Hotel and Leisure Club.

5. Glencoe Mountain

  • Best for: Incredible views, staying on-site and skiing in one my my favorite areas in Scotland
  • Number of pistes: 20
  • Total piste length: 24km (15 miles)
  • Longest piste: 4km (2.6 miles)
  • Recommended hotel: Glencoe House

Last up on our bumper list of all the ski resorts in Scotland is Glencoe Mountain.

I reckon this is the prettiest of the lot—Glencoe is ridiculously beautiful. Hiking here is great, driving here is great, and skiing here is even better.

The snowfall can be a little unpredictable and shallow, so it’s usually best to visit in January or February. Outside of those months, the conditions probably won’t be great.

This place is the oldest ski center in Scotland, and has been operating since the 1950s. Partially because of that, there’s lots of diversity—you get beginner runs, beginners’ lessons, family-friendly sledging, and some great slopes for kids; but you also get some really lengthy pistes, and the steepest run in Scotland.

The best accommodations are in the tiny town of Glencoe, which is ridiculously charming. Right on the shores of a loch, and backed by towering mountains, I love the place.

Two of my favorite accommodations here are Holly Tree Hotel and Glencoe House, but there’s also accommodation inside the ski center itself—you can camp, hook up your campervan, or stay in their cosy little wooden pods (which have heating and electricity).

Can You Go Backcountry/Off-Piste Skiing in Scotland?

Yeah, you absolutely can. It’s possible, it’s legal, and there are loads of towering mountains where you can do it.

That said, it’s only a good idea if you’ve got experience, and if you know what you’re doing. If not, you’ll probably end up breaking your leg, or falling off a mountain or something.

Backcountry off-piste skiing in Scotland is possible
Backcountry off-piste skiing in Scotland is possible

As we’ve covered, the best places for off-piste skiing in Scotland are Cairngorm Mountain Ski Center and Nevis Range Mountain Resort.

But wherever you’re planning to ski off-piste, consider getting in touch with a local expert. Yeah, you might be experienced, but it’s always good to have help from someone who knows the particular slopes and terrain you’ll be tackling.

Best Indoor Ski Resorts and Artificial Ski Slopes in Scotland

If you can’t ski outdoors, indoor skiing is a decent alternative.

It’s also often more convenient—you don’t have to wait for the right weather, you don’t have to travel up a mountain, and it’s much more affordable. Here are the best places for indoor skiing in Scotland:

1. Snow Factor

Just outside of Glasgow, this is absolutely the best place to go indoor skiing in Scotland. It’s the only year-round resort in the nation, and it’s always covered in real snow, rather than the fake stuff.

Highlights include a 200-meter piste, sledging, ice climbing, good food and drink, and some surprisingly-challenging routes.

2. Lagganlia Centre for Outdoor Learning

If you’re in the Cairngorms but don’t want to hit real slopes, here’s your snowy solution.

Here, you get snowshoeing, ski lessons, and loads more wintry activities for both adults and kids. Outside of snowy months, you can also come here to hike, cycle and climb and more.

3. Midlothian Snowsports Center

This place is close to Edinburgh, and has the longest dry ski slope in Europe (clocking in at 400 meters). A massively popular day trip from Scotland’s capital city, highlights here include lessons, coaching, tubing, and a freestyle ski area. A great choice any time of year.

4. Alford Ski Center

Close to Aberdeen, Alford Ski Center is massively underrated. Here, you get lessons, tubing, a great 70-meter slope, a 30-meter training slope, some magic carpets, and excellent snowboarding.

They also offer so-called ‘Open Lesson Sessions,’ where hands-off trainers can offer advice if you want it. A perfect way to learn!

Skiing in Scotland: Pro Tips

  • Book in advance: Scotland’s slopes can get massively busy, so make sure you book your slots in advance. That’s especially true in January and February, when the slopes are at their best and most popular. The same goes for any accommodation. Plan ahead and book your accommodation here.
  • Dress properly: I know because it’s Scotland, and cos the slopes aren’t as lofty as some of the world’s more famous skiing places, you probably think it won’t be very cold. But it will—and because Scotland is humid, it often feels even colder. So dress properly!
  • Check for road closures: If snow is really heavy, Scottish roads can sometimes be closed down or inaccessible (especially in the Cairngorms). So check in advance. The best place to do so is the official Traffic Scotland website.
  • Take your own equipment if you can: Obviously, if you don’t have your own equipment, you can hire stuff. But it’s not always of the highest quality, and the queues are often very long. So take your own equipment and clothes if you have them! Shop your equipment and accessories from here.

Final Thoughts and Further Reading

Thanks for reading our ultimate guide to skiing in Scotland.

If you want to know anything else about exploring and enjoying wintry fun in the nation, check out our guides to the best things to do in Scotland in winter, and the best places to visit in Scotland in winter.

See you next time!

Being a Digital Nomad: Tips, Tricks and Places

Do you want to be a digital nomad?

If you do, maybe you don’t know where you might want to live. Or how to live there. Or whether you need a visa. Or how to make friends in the scary sprawl of a brand-new city. Or how to stay productive while you travel. Or how to find an apartment. Or whether this lifestyle really is for you. Or… I’m sure you get the idea.

But with some insight and experience, it’s not as difficult as you think. So in this book, I’ve gathered my 6 years of digital-nomadding experience… and I’ve used it to answer all your questions, soothe all your fears, and get you on your way. After reading this, you’ll realise being a digital nomad is much easier (and much more possible!) than you think.