The Coire Cas car park at Cairngorm Mountain. Photo: Steven Brown CC-BY-SA-2.0

The Coire Cas car park at Cairngorm Mountain. Photo: Steven Brown CC-BY-SA-2.0

Walkers, climbers and mountaineers will be able to continue parking their vehicles free of charge this winter at the Cairn Gorm ski centre, Mountaineering Scotland said.

The previous operator of the site, which went into administration, had planned to introduce compulsory charges for users.

Highlands & Islands Enterprise has taken over the operation of the ski resort on the northern slopes of Cairn Gorm. The agency owns the site but had but had leased it to CairnGorm Mountain, whose parent company Natural Retreats had a 25-year-contract to run the resort, south-east of Aviemore.

But structural problems with the funicular railway meant it could not operate, putting a strain on CairnGorm Mountain’s finances, and the company was placed in administration at the end of November, leading to fears that the access road to the ski centre would not be kept clear during this winter season.

Mountaineering Scotland’s chief executive Stuart Younie wrote to Highlands & Islands Enterprise earlier this week seeking reassurances the road and car park would be kept accessible.

The agency’s chief executive Charlotte Wright said: “HIE and the new company, Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd, is doing all it can to prepare the resort for winter snow sports and that indeed focuses on the road being open and accessible for users of the mountain.”

“The technical team on-site are working hard to ensure that the appropriate snow clearing equipment is available for road clearing. We are also looking to strengthen the resources with additional plant.”

And she confirmed that the compulsory car parking charges, announced earlier this year by CairnGorm Mountain, would not apply during the winter snow sports season.

Staff and assets are being transferred to the new company, which said it will honour season tickets bought for this winter season.

HIE has sought support from accountancy firm Scott Moncrieff, to include a business-turnaround specialist as interim chief executive to run the firm until the end of March.

Ms Wright said engagement with local business and community groups will continue to be important. She said: “We are very pleased to have worked with the administrators to achieve a really positive outcome from a highly challenging situation.

“The deal that we’ve reached will protect jobs and bring stability to the business, which plays an important role in the wider local economy.

“The immediate focus of the new operating company is to ensure the best possible experience for visitors this winter, particularly while the funicular is inactive, and bring some stability for staff and local businesses that rely on Cairngorm.

“This includes operating the new snowmaking equipment and ski tows, as well as catering and facilities at the base station.”

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