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Mar Lodge ski centre

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Mar Lodge ski-centreMar Lodge ski-centre (Credit : Google Earth)

Mar Lodge sk -centre is the (demolished) ski centre on Beinn a' Bhuilg near Mar Lodge.

The photograph - a screen capture from Google Earth - shows the line of the (demolished) ski-tow on the face of Beinn a' Bhuilg.

You may be surprised to learn that there ever was a ski-centre at Mar Lodge, but in the early 1960s there was a short-lived attempt to turn Mar Lodge Estate into a year round recreation destination.

In 1963 large amounts of money began being spent at Mar Lodge, by the Swiss owners, in the serious expectation of jump-starting a ski-economy in the south-east Cairngorms.  Some of that money went into the re-development of the service-court at Mar Lodge to include toilets, showers, a restaurant, and a bar.  The ski-runs were on the face of Beinn a' Bhuilg a short distance west of the Stag Ballroom, about half-way between the ballroom, and the Golf Course suspension-bridge.  At the base of the ski-runs a chalet-style building housed the ski-tow machinery ; it was removed many years ago.

My memory tells me that the machinery house survived until the National Trust of Scotland acquired Mar Lodge Estate in 1995, but apparently my memory is wrong - a good lesson, learned again, about not relying on ones memory for facts.  The removal of this 'historic' building is something I'll have to dig into to get more facts.  The huge concrete base is all that remains of the machinery house, but at least its site is well marked.

Satellite images show the remains : the concrete base, a straight-scar running up the hillside, the straightened-edge of the wood, and the scar continuing on to the bulldozed road above.

A few snowy winters in the early 1960s encouraged the owners to invest ; but  the development was bound to fail - there just isn't enough snow, consistently, on Beinn a' Bhuilg to support a ski-centre.  The locals knew this, but were either not asked, or were ignored.  Two near-contemporary accounts refer to the development in striking different tones - in Technical Group (1967) the authors refer to the development - writing :

In Upper Deeside, a new development is the provision at Mar Lodge of holiday recreational facilities, and catering, in ideal surroundings.  Two ski tows operate on Creag Bhalg ... snow-making apparatus facilitate ski-ing during frosty conditions as this comparatively low level

- Technical Group (1967) (p51-52)

An oddly up-beat reference to a ski-centre that was either already failing, or at least bound to fail.  In Watson (1968) the author makes a more realistic reference to the development - writing :

Mar Lodge was started as a winter sports centre in late 1963, with bulldozed ski slopes on the south side of Creag Bhalg near the lodge, and with two ski tows and machinery for making snow artificially.  The project was a failure because of trouble with the machines and rapid melting of the snow

- Watson (1968) (p124-125)

About 1982 I remember following the line of the ski-tows downhill.  The remains of the ski-tows were still evident 20-years later scattered across the hillside.  I remember seeing wooden stakes along the route ; I even found a bronze valve, about 2-inches in diameter, hard evidence of the snow making equipment left behind.