HIGHLAND politicians have criticised the company responsible for running the Cairngorm Mountain ski slopes after the funicular was closed and the ski school suddenly cancelled just ahead of the start of the season.

MP Drew Hendry and MSP Kate Forbes have jointly written to the chief executive of Natural Retreats and Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing, urging him to intervene in what is a vital asset for the local – and Scottish – economy.

“The news that the ski school has now been suspended is another bitter blow for the Aviemore community, who have already had to deal with the closure of the funicular,” said Hendry.

READ MORE: Aviemore companies fear closure over damaged Cairngorm funicular

“I believe we have all been extremely patient with Natural Retreats, yet promised improvements have not materialised.

“Communication is almost non-existent with the local community and when it does happen, it comes too late.

“Whilst people were prepared to accept safety comes first with the funicular, it is little wonder that those who have bought season tickets in good faith are frustrated that this news hadn’t come earlier.

“The mountain is a vital economic asset to local businesses and the community and this situation cannot be allowed to continue. We are urging the Cabinet Secretary to intervene.”

Forbes added: “I believe that Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) should take swift and decisive action in relation to Cairngorm Mountain because enough is enough.

“After several years, with little to no progress on developments, and now the funicular out of service, the ski school suspended for the season and the cancellation of Groove Cairngorm I believe that the local community have put up with more than enough.

“With the first snow falling and the local economy dependent on Cairngorm Mountain over the winter season, I am absolutely dismayed at the current state of affairs.

She added: “I have kept in close contact with the chair and chief executive of HIE, as well as my colleague Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing.

“I know that they have worked extremely hard behind the scenes to resolve this situation, but I believe that it is now time for significant intervention. For the sake of local people and those who love Cairngorm Mountain, I am saddened by the way in which Natural Retreats have managed these situations.”

Ewing tweeted: “I am concerned about events at Cairngorm and in close contact with HIE. I am determined that we find a solution to enable skiing this season and a secure future for snow sports.”

The £19.5 million funicular was closed earlier this month to allow structural engineers to carry out a detailed examination, including an assessment of the railway’s foundations.

Their findings will be known next month and should confirm what work is necessary and how long it will take to complete.

Ewan Kearney, chief operating officer at Natural Retreats said: “The decision not to operate the Snow School this season was not taken lightly, and we would like to thank everyone at the Snow School for their hard work and commitment.

“Given the uncertainty surrounding the funicular and the likely knock-on effects to Cairngorm Mountain’s carrying capacity, coupled with limited snow cover for lessons, we have made the decision not to operate our own Snow School this winter and focus on supporting the local ski schools in Aviemore.

“We will be listing all local ski schools on the Cairngorm Mountain website.”