NEGOTIATIONS to reinstate the Cairngorm Mountain Railway after two years of closure due to structural issues are at an “advanced stage”, it has emerged.

At Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee this morning, the Auditor General for Scotland Stephen Boyle discussed the future of the resort.

Boyle warned that while Cairngorm Mountain is a “vital asset” to the local economy and sports industry, the sustainability of its business model is “very, very challenging”.

He said commercial success has been reliant on good weather conditions and had been “further hindered” by the closure of the railway in 2018.

Government agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has stepped in twice in the last 10 years after external operators suffered financial difficulties. HIE owns the resort and is responsible for its management, but mainly private firms have operated the ski area.

Asked if the railway would ever operate again given the financial challenges, Boyle said HIE was “really clear” that its preference is to reinstate the service.

He told the committee: "There is a final business case. We haven't audited it, but the final business case was considered at HIE's July board meeting.

"It confirms that reinstating the funicular is still the preferred option.

"I'm led to believe that negotiations with a contractor to carry out the work are at an advanced stage."

It is estimated that reinstating the railway would cost between £10 million and £15m, while removing it would cost at least £13.3m.

During the meeting the viability of the resort relying on snow sports to earn money was discussed.

The Auditor General pointed out how private and public bodies have struggled to break even while operating the resort.

He explained: "The model to date has relied on the provision of winter sports services.

"The masterplan and its thinking, therefore, to deliver an alternative economic return, may need to think much more widely and differently about what the future service provision on Cairngorm Mountain is."

Later in the meeting the senior manager of performance audit and best value at Audit Scotland explained the impact climate change will have on the resort’s future.

Graeme Greenhill told MSPs: “There's a lot less snow than there used to be.

"I think it's highly likely that the other ski resorts are suffering as a result of that, and they're having to think about how they operate in future."