Best places to ski and snowboard in Britain
If you're missing the powder this winter, the UK has a surprisingly good selection of resorts. We hit the slopes with our guide to the best places to go skiing in the UK.
While many people will be hitting the European slopes this winter, if you want to have some fun in the snow it's also worth looking closer to home. Head to Scotland for an alpine experience that's not too far from that in Switzerland and has some fairly well-known resorts, but in the right conditions even Cumbria can provide some great runs.
Here is our expert guide to the best places to go skiing in the UK for all ages and levels of ability. We've included great options for both outside in the fresh mountain air, and indoors at dry slopes and indoor centres.
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The best places to go skiing and snowboarding in the UK
Glenshee claims to have the most extensive skiing areas in the UK, with 25 miles of downhill runs over four mountains. There are 22 lifts and 36 runs, offering an amazing diversity of natural terrain for all standards of skiers and snowboarders. The ski centre at Braemar is open for skiing and snowboarding from mid December to April, while the Base Cafe is open all year round.
There are wide open pistes, sheltered expanses, jumps, a natural half-pipe and a testing slalom race track. This does make it a popular site on days with good conditions, but if you book online you can skip the queues at the ticket office. There is on-site equipment hire. www.ski-glenshee.co.uk
Lecht 2090 stands, as the name suggests, 2,090ft (637m) above sea level amid the beauty of the Eastern Cairngorms, and is a great resort for beginners.
One of the smaller resorts in Scotland with shorter runs, it’s popular with families but not as busy as other resorts. As the site is within the Cairngorms National Park you can enjoy the amazing scenery without all the crowds – especially if you go on a weekday.
Even at the weekend, Lecht makes a good alternative to the busier Cairngorm resort at Aviemore. The ski centre has a bar/restaurant with the usual après-ski suspects of hot chocolate, mulled wine and more. There is also a hire centre for equipment. www.lecht.co.uk
Cairngorm mountain has now been offering snowsporting opportunities for over 50 years, and is one of Scotland's most popular destinations for skiers and snowboarders. Depending on weather, the snowsports season typically runs from December to April and there are 11 lifts, plus a funicular railway to get you to the mountain top. At the top, you can enjoy stunning views before making use of the 30km of ski runs ranging from green to black. The centre operates a ski/snowboard school with lessons for all ability levels and equipment hire is also available on site. There is a café offering hot drinks and light refreshments. www.cairngormmountain.co.uk
Nevis Range Scotland’s newest ski area on Aonach Mor is open from December to April and has 12 miles of pistes. The runs of the Nevis range are surrounded by some spectacular scenery, and also have easy access to backcountry for experienced skiers/boarders.
The centre offers back-corrie workshops specifically tailored to the conditions on the range. This site is usually better later in the season (February/March) as it relies on westerlies to fill the bowls with snow. For beginners there are plenty of blue and green runs near the top station, as well as a dry slope for days when there is insufficient snow cover. There are 12 lifts, including a mountain gondola. The site has cafes and a restaurant/bar, as well as shop, ski-school and equipment hire. www.nevisrange.co.uk
Glencoe resort has 20 runs of varying grades and 8 different lifts, so it can cater for skiers and boarders of all levels. Beginners can stick to practising on the gentle plateau runs while experienced skiers and boarders can make use of some of the best natural terrain in Scotland, including some incredibly long and steep runs. The resort offers group and private lessons, a great café and plenty of accommodation, from Microlodges to tent pitches and campervan hook-ups. Equipment can be hired on-site. www.glencoemountain.co.uk
With a button lift running most weekends that conditions allow, the Lake District Ski Club is one of several in the north of England. It gets the best snow conditions in the Lakes, and there are up to nine pistes available (depending on conditions), the longest of which is almost a mile.
A certain level of fitness is required as Raise is about an hour’s steep hike – walking poles are a good idea, and bring crampons if it’s icy. Don’t forget warm clothes, food and drink. The skiing on Raise is not for the faint-hearted: the runs are over rugged terrain and vary greatly depending on the weather - it’s worth asking the operators which are suitable when you arrive. There is a members hut at the top station with heating, electricity, a kettle and a toilet. If you’re planning multiple visits you can leave your gear (clearly labeled) in the hut to save lugging it all up the hill again. www.ldscsnowski.co.uk
Don’t let the fact that you need to a be a member put you off skiing at Allenheads. Membership is easy to come by and costs less than a couple of days skiing at large commercial resorts. Allenheads Ski Club welcomes all abilities and it’s a great place to get started on the slopes. The tows are now in place, so keep an eye on the snow report on the site for details of when it’s suitable to ski.
The site has a cabin, and the village of Allenheads is just a (very) short walk away, and provides toilets, the Hemmel Cafe and the Allenheads Inn. Members can also benefit from discounts in local ski shops. ski-allenheads.co.uk
Yad Moss has the longest single-button lift in England, while the Pennines’ dales and high plateaus are ideal for cross-country.
Like Allenheads, Yad Moss is a membership-based slope but it’s also possible to buy day tickets. The ski area has a button tow about 600m long. It is suitable for intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders but is not really suitable for the inexperienced.
In good snow conditions there are about eight blue/red ski runs of up to 800m in length. The lack of rocks and grassy surface means that skiing is often possible at Yad Moss when other, rockier slopes don’t have enough snow to stay open. There are composting toilets on site and a daylodge on site to provide shelter, but you’ll need to bring your own food and drink. Do check the site before travelling as on busy days the number of day tickets is sometimes restricted.
Day tickets are available at the Yad Moss Ticket Office. Bring cash as there are no card payment facilities. www.yadmoss.co.uk
Weardale ski club was established in 1963, and offers real-snow skiing on Swinhope Moor. The site relies on volunteers to run (they always welcome extra hands!) and visitors shouldn’t expect a glossy ski resort, but what facilities they have are well-maintained, and include two permanent button tows and two storey ski lodge and workshop. Full membership is open to everyone but is closed once they reach their maximum number. Day tickets are available on weekdays, while weekends are reserved for full members. Ski-days depend on conditions and if there are people available to operate the tows, so it’s worth phoning to check if you’re planning a visit. www.skiweardale.com
Britain’s best dry ski slopes and indoor centres
Even if you can’t get out to one of the ‘natural’ resorts you can still experience some good skiing. Unlike dry-ski slopes, the indoor centres below all have man-made ‘real’ snow – so you will still want to take your warm clothes!
As well as equipment hire, Snow Factor offers ski/snowboard lessons, and refresher clinics for those who haven’t been on the slopes for a while. There is also sledging, an ice wall for climbing, and a Bavarian themed café/bar complete with wood-burning stove. The centre also boasts a bowling alley, cinema and a soft play area for little ones.
Europe’s largest indoor real-snow resort, Snozone caters to all abilities. The Milton Keynes centre has a main slope of 175m, plus a gym, shops, cinema, bowling alley and café/bar/restaurant. Lessons and refresher courses are on offer as well as sledging and an ice-slide – both great for kids. Open October to April only. snozoneuk.com
Castleford’s main slope is 150m long, and there is also a nursery slope of 40m for beginners. The site is pretty extensive and along with the usual equipment hire centre and café/restaurant there are indoor and outdoor skate parks, a bowling alley, cinema and aerial assault course. Open October to April only.
The Snow Centre’s main slope is 160m, and it also has an 100m long teaching slope. Along with a café and restaurant there is a shop and equipment hire, plus tobogganing and freestyle sessions. Lessons are available for anyone who wants them, and a broad range of ticket options means you can spend as much or as little time on the slopes as you like.
Along with an 180m main slope and a dedicated beginner’s area, Chill Factore also boasts a terrain park with jumps and rails that is great for freestyling (lessons are on offer for anyone who is new to freestyle). If you fancy a break from skiing, the centre also has a climbing wall, tubing lanes, shops (including equipment hire), restaurants and bars.
Tamworth has a main slope of 170 metres, plus two nursery slopes (30 metres and 25 metres), meaning it can offer a range of skiing for all ages and abilities (equipment is included in the ticket price.) Ice skating, tubing and sledging are also available as alternatives to skiing or boarding, along with a gym and swimming pool. There are a few café/restaurants if you get peckish.