This letter in response to the current destruction of ski infrastructure in Coire na Ciste provides an excellent summary of how downhill skiing has been managed by HIE at Cairngorm. It raises much wider issues of what are National Parks are for.
Also this week on BBC Highland there was a feature on HIE and Natural Retreats proposed dry ski slope above the Coire Cas carpark. HIE’s vision for Cairngorm appears to have nothing to do with outdoor recreation. At its centre is a dry ski slope and an expanded restaurant at the top of the mountain where people are isolated from the natural environment by built structures.
By contrast the Coire na Ciste group’s vision appears founded on the understanding that what is important to skiers at Cairngorm is the quality of the skiing and enjoyment of the natural environment. Their proposals – which HIE appears hell bent on thwarting – are in essence an attempt to develop a vision which fits the National Park’s objectives: conservation, enjoyment of the outdoors and sustainable economic development.
Now there are questions about whether downhill skiing at Cairngorm is sustainable in the face of global warming, questions that the Save the Ciste group has been trying to address. However, I think they should be the starting point of public discussion about the future of Cairngorm. If they turned out not to be sustainable, we should then move on to a debate about alternative uses which met the National Park’s objectives and are based on the natural environment.
The CNPA should be leading this debate and helping facilitate the development of a vision for Cairngorm. Instead, it appears completely subservient to HIE. The only way this is going to change is if the recreational and conservation organisations get together with the local community and develop an alternative plan for Cairngorm.