CAIRNGORM Mountain’s ill-fated funicular railway will not be open in time for this winter’s ski season, it has been confirmed.

However, rumours that the repair works will not be finished before spring have been dismissed by resort bosses.

A spokesperson for Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Cairngorm Mountain’s parent company, said it “certainly” would not be open in time for the start of the winter ski season as there were still “at least a couple of weeks’ work outstanding”, with weather conditions making this more challenging.

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“If any there is any way we can get it up and running during the winter season then that is still our aim,” he said. “There are 94 piers on the structure that are being worked on and each has series of joints that has tensioning rods going through them and these rods are all being tightened.”

The controversial two-kilometre railway cost £19 million to build and has so far cost £25m to repair. First opened in 2001, the railway closed in October 2018 due to structural issues, reopened last January, then shut down again in August.

Operators Cairngorm Mountain said the team was “doing its best” to open the funicular as soon as possible.

The National: A view of the funicular railway on the Cairngorm Mountain, Cairngorm, Scotland. (Photo by: Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images).

“Even without the funicular, if there is sufficient snowfall, visitors can enjoy the choice of 12 other uplifts to access the higher slopes,” said a spokesperson.

“We also will reopen our two 100m ‘magic carpet’ conveyor belts. Since their launch last year, the magic carpets have been immensely popular and allow skiers and snowboarders to easily reach the beginner slopes.”

She added: “With the recent snowfall across the Cairngorms and along with our snow cannons and snow factory, which guarantees snow for the beginners’ zone, we look forward to opening our snowsports season on December 22.

“If the weather conditions remain promising and snow coverage and quality are optimal ahead of this date, we may be able to open earlier.”

As a “gesture of goodwill”, the resort’s early-bird pricing will remain in place all season and a “generous discount” will be offered on the day passes until the funicular is back in service.

Last season, Cairngorm Mountain was open for 104 days, welcoming 33,112 skiers with 16 stormbound days.

Elsewhere, Nevis Range is hoping for a better season than last year’s “disaster” when poor conditions meant the resort was open for skiing for only a handful of days.

“The temperatures were all over the place so it was really tough,” said managing director Chris O’Brien.

“The forecast is difficult to read for the moment but whatever happens we will certainly have our snow-making equipment and sledging available on Christmas week which was hugely popular last year – in Christmas week we had about 1500 sledgers.

“I like to think there will be a white Christmas because it looks like there is going to be a bit around that week and looking at the long-term forecast we are optimistic.”

As well as poor snow conditions, the resort has had to contend with sky-high energy prices which have rocketed 200% in the last two years. The cost of living and recruitment crises have also had a severe impact.

“That’s true across Scottish tourism where we have seen this incredible situation where turnover in most places in Scotland is up by about 15% but profitability is down by about 37%. What that data tells me is that costs are rising to an incredible extent,” said O’Brien.

Because skiing was so limited last year, Nevis Range is changing its season ticket products and is now selling books of five, 10 or 15 tickets which are valid for two years.

“We thought we had to find a way to make sure this season ticket represents value for money because of the challenging snow conditions we have had over the last few years,” said O’Brien.

Despite the poor ski season, the resort has welcomed 38,000 more visitors over the last year, with a total of 200,000 day-trippers and mountain-bikers.

A new hotel opened in April which has enjoyed 90% occupancy and a new cocktail bar and bike shop are also proving popular.

To drum up business, O’Brien has been at “pretty much every travel agent show” in the UK over the past 12 months, with most of the new custom resulting from that.

The resort also experienced its “biggest-ever” year for mountain biking and is looking forward to hosting the world championships again next year.

Despite the visitor growth, which brought a £1m increase in takings, O’Brien said the resort had experienced the same profitability issues as the rest of the tourist industry and would not break even.

“It’s not a bad loss, but in this day and age what does it tell you if you experience £1m in growth and don’t take a profit?” he asked. “Our costs are rising but you can’t put your own prices up if you still want people to come.”

Despite the poor skiing season at Nevis Range, nearby Glencoe experienced better conditions and was open for 37 days.

The resort opened on December 30 and enjoyed its “busiest ever” January, with a total of 12,169 skiers and 18,000 sledgers. A new three-person chair helped cope with demand and one day saw a record 1200 skiers.

For this season, the resort has invested nearly £100,000 in a new access system which will mean tickets, ski hire and ski lessons can all be booked online.

“We will have the most sophisticated booking system of any of the Scottish resorts as people will be able to walk straight on to the hill and not have to queue at the ticket office,” said managing director Andy Meldrum.

The forecast isn’t promising a white Christmas for Glencoe but the resort is already open for sledging with artificial snow.

Glenshee’s official opening is December 20 but ski patrol manager Jim Wood said the resort would open earlier if there was sufficient snow.

There were 106 skiing days at Glenshee last year, with an early December start, but this year it is hoped there will be a longer season and more continuity with the snow cover.

The Lecht currently has some snow cover but operators said it needs more to open.