Monday, January 21, 2013

Bucket List: Skiing the Scottish Slopes

When we came to Scotland to visit my parents in September of 2009, I distinctly remember seeing stationary ski lifts above a snowless hill. I had never thought of Scotland as a ski destination before, but I guess it made sense. Snow+Mountain= Skiing. When Friday and Saturday dumped a few inches of powder on the mountains we decided to give skiing in Scotland a try. 
We headed out bright and early on Sunday morning in order to get in a full day of skiing. We arrived at The Lecht adventure park after an hour and 45 minute drive through the Cairngorm National Park, and well…I wouldn’t exactly label Scotland a skiing ‘destination’ but there were slopes with real snow, so we forked over the 40 pounds for a lift ticket and ski rental and suited up for some slopes. 
The excursion was mainly to give me an opportunity to hone my beginner ski skills before our big ski trip to France in March. First stop: bunny slopes. These slopes were especially nice since a ‘magic carpet’ took us all the way to the top. No chair lift= successful ski outing. 

Jon was very patient and stayed with me on the bunny slopes for about an hour before I dismissed him to go off to do some real skiing. Meanwhile I participated in my favorite part of ski days: reading a book while drinking hot chocolate. 
When Jonathan came back from the more advanced slopes, I decided to try my hand at an honest to goodness green slope. The incline of the hill didn’t stress me out near as much as the method of getting up there. Have y’all ever heard of button lifts? I had been forewarned before this excursion that in Europe, ski resorts widely use button lifts rather than chair lifts to take you up the mountain. 
It’s basically a butt-sized disc hanging from a tension rod that you place between your legs. You squeeze your legs and hold the cord while it pulls you to the top of the slope. Jonathan probably explained the method to me 10 times before I tried it out. Pull the rod down. Place the disc between your thighs. Squeeze. Slide forward when the light turns green. Lean back and hold on.   

I repeated the steps over and over like a mantra while still sensing that it was probably all a bit harder than it looked. Sure enough, as soon as I slid forward to go up, the lift operator came rushing out before I lifted off screaming “Don’t sit down. It’s not a chairlift!”. I guess my instincts told me to treat the button lift like a rope swing. I had entwined my legs around the bottom and was holding on for dear life. Totally incorrect. If you’re interested, here is a video on how to do it correctly. 
You are supposed to stand up straight, and use your own balance as the lift pulls you up. Duh. Why didn’t you just say it’s like water skiing? I am actually GOOD at water skiing. I just relaxed and let that little machine do the heavy lifting while I effortlessly slid up the mountain. And voila, I found my new favorite thing about skiing in Europe! 
Until my second time up, when the button lift inexplicably stopped working. For 10 minutes. And I was just standing by my lonesome. In the 15 degree fresh air. With the 40 mph wind gusts. Squeezing my thighs together the whole time. After shivering in the cold for a good 10 minutes, the lift started again. 
The good thing about the delay was that the entire slope had cleared out while we were waiting, and Jon and I were the first ones up at the top. Which means I basically had the whole mountain run to myself. I took the snow-boarder free opportunity to just point my skis down and fly. 

When we got to the bottom, the button lift had stopped working again so Jonathan and I decided to take our freezing butts back home. We skied down to the resort to return our skiis before starting the hour and 45 minute drive back to Aberdeen. 
Our return trip took a bit longer than expected though since Jonathan couldn’t resist taking a few snowy detours in his Defender. We found some back roads and put ole Fyvie to the test. 
He proved that he can indeed drive straight up a snow covered hill and climb a 4 foot tall packed-snow embankment. 
I didn’t mind the scenic route since Jonathan had so sweetly indulged me in my bunny sloping habits. Plus it made for some pretty pictures and romantic time with my honey. 

So no, I wouldn’t label Scotland as an undiscovered skiing haven, but for something within a two hour drive from our driveway, I’m not complaining. It was an incredible outing and a day very well spent.

P.S. I want to wish a super happy birthday to my dear friend Jillian! My life is so blessed to have you in it and I can't wait to celebrate the big 3-0 with you tonight!


  1. Thank you for the sweet birthday shout out, Laine!! Looking forward to celebrating tonight and certainly can't wait to ski the French Alps with you!!

  2. I'm not a fan of the button lift, tow rope, t-bar or anything else that drags me back up the hill and doesn't allow my legs a rest. France will be a-mazing! The skiing there is great when they have good snow, enjoy!!

  3. So glad another item got checked off of the bucket list. It looks awesome and you both look great. Awesome photos too!!!

  4. I love the picture of Jon on the bunny slope magic carpet. What a good sport! And never heard of a button lift. Thanks for the great post.