SCOTLAND’S ski resorts are dreaming of a white Christmas to help weather rising rocketing energy and insurance costs as well as recoup recent infrastructure investments.

Nevis Range alone is facing a four-fold rise in electricity bills from £200,000 to £800,000 annually, plus insurance costs that have risen above inflation.

“Our electricity is a huge cost and if we are not careful, it is the sort of thing that could really cripple the entire ski industry,” said CEO Chris O’Brien. “We are experiencing a dramatic increase which, for a business our size, is extraordinarily difficult to absorb. Resorts like Nevis Range are also expensive to insure and we are looking at a massive increase there which, combined with electricity, is north of a million pounds.”

Despite the rises, Nevis Range is freezing season ticket prices at the same level as last year.

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“We don’t want to pile extra misery on our customers at this time,” said O’Brien. “We are quite confident about the skiing itself this year and what we are hoping more than anything is that the cost of living crisis doesn’t affect consumer confidence so badly that they don’t come out.”

Last winter, the first full season since the pandemic lockdowns, saw little snow at the Scottish resorts until February but O’Brien said the long-range weather forecasts were looking good for Nevis Range.

“I have to say I am probably more optimistic at this time of the year than I have been in a very long time,” he said. “By late December, conditions really look like they will be in our favour so we are really hoping we can get people out skiing again. A white Christmas would be amazing.”

The resort will open the weekend before Christmas with tickets already being snapped up for a Santa’s Grotto event.

“We are hoping to get the kids sledging on an artificial slope or some real snow so we have lots of reasons to be cheerful despite all the depression out there,” said O’Brien. “We are a year-round resort so as soon as we open we will have tourists back in as well.”

Nevis Range sees around 200,000 visitors a year, of whom 30,000 are skiers, 30,000 are mountain bikers and the rest are gondola tourists. A new 22-bedroom hotel will open at the resort in January, part of a £4m project comprising a 24-berth bunkhouse, bar and restaurant, bike shop, children’s activity centre, childcare facilities, and a covered courtyard with an event space.

“We could not be more positive and optimistic about the future,”

said O’Brien.

At Glencoe, a new three-person chair lift will open up a previously little-used area of the mountain and complement the new £2 million cafe built to replace one destroyed by a fire in 2019.

However, managing director Andy Meldrum is less confident about a white festive season than his counterpart at Nevis Range.

“It looks like settled weather and turning colder but there doesn’t look like any snow in the forecast which is a bit of a worry,” he said. “Normally, at this time of year, we are looking for the big Atlantic storms to come in and dump lots of snow.

“Settled weather with a few snow flurries is good for getting sledging and our beginners’ slope with the artificial snow up-and-running, but it is not looking very positive pre-Christmas as far as having lots of snow and the full mountain open are concerned.”

Meldrum said that if it turned out to be a bad season, they would “knuckle down and survive” but a good season would mean the resort could invest in staff accommodation. “I think everyone needs to do that,” he said. “We have had to operate with lower staffing numbers mainly because we can’t get staff. It is almost impossible at the moment in the Highlands to recruit because despite the fact that lots of people would like to come and work in Glencoe, there are not many that can afford the prices in the area or even find accommodation because of Airbnb and short-term lets.”

Glencoe’s electricity contracts are mainly not due to be renewed until 2026 so is reasonably well protected against current rises but is still having to cope with the higher cost of diesel which is used for the piste machines and snow ploughs.

Despite this, the resort aims to run the machines as normal and should be open for sledging and limited skiing pre-Christmas.

“We just need to soak up the cost because if we don’t run the machines as much, the ski experience won’t be so good,” said Meldrum. “We plan to just do everything as normal and hope we do everything well enough that customers will still come in a decent enough number.”

Glenshee ski centre is aiming to open on December 17 with artificial snow on the Dink Dink, Rope Tow and plastic runs while the Lecht will open once there is sufficient snow.

At Cairn Gorm, the controversial funicular railway is currently undergoing extensive repairs with the expectation of it reopening this winter.