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by Alec Farmer

With the winter season upon us, no doubt you’re all dreaming about adventures in the snow. But there’s no need to rush off to the Alps. You’d be surprised just how much snow we get here in the UK. From Wales to the Lake District, there are plenty of places to play in the white-stuff - but Scotland holds the crown as the snowiest place in the UK, with snow falling on 52 days a year on average. So if you’re on the hunt for powder, here’s everything you need to know about snow in Scotland.

There are 6 ski resorts in Scotland.

a map denoting the Scottish ski resorts of Glencoe, Glenshee,

Collectively, they host 62 lifts serving more than 130km of pisted runs. In fact, if you laid the pistes end-to-end, you could ski from Glencoe to Glasgow. The chairlift would take a while though...

 

The Cairngorm Range is the snowiest place in the UK.

the cairngorm range covered in snow

The weather station by the Cairngorm chairlift records snowfall on 76 days a year, on average. By comparison, Cornwall only experiences 7.4 days of snowfall a year. Great for surfers. Not so great for snowboarders!

 

There’s a 73% chance of a white Christmas.

a man walking in the snow with a trakke fingal backpack in black.

The trouble is, only one snowflake needs to fall on the 25th December to qualify as a ‘white christmas’. If you’re hoping for a blanket of snow covering the ground, the odds aren’t in your favour. It’s only happened four times in the last 51 years. Sad face.

 

You can ski in Scotland all year round.

Helen Rennie, an avid Scottish skier, has skied on real snow in Scotland for 96 months in a row. Admittedly, she doesn’t always find the longest runs. Her shortest was only 2 turns! Nontheless, it’s quite an achievement, and a great way to maintain year-round fitness.  Helen comments that “I just love skiing, and it makes a walk more purposeful and fun in the summer. I’ve skied amongst ptarmigan and reindeer on the patches and seen stunning snow structures as the patches melt.” Kudos!

 

Snow falls at an average speed of 1.7m per second.

snowflake photograph by wilson bentley

Typically, snowflakes begin their descent from an altitude of about 3000m, so it takes nearly 30 minutes to reach the ground!

 

Eskimos don’t have 100 words for snow.

flukra

But in Scotland, we have 421. Our favourite is ‘snaw-pouther’, meaning ‘fine driving snow’. ‘Neist’ meaning ‘light snow/sleet’ and ‘flukra’ - a large snowflake.

 

The word ‘snowball’ dates back to 1400.

a hand holding a snowball

Oddly, the concept of throwing a snowball didn’t surface until 1850 - which makes you wonder - what did they do with their stockpile of snowballs in the 1400s?

 

Scotland should host the Winter Olympics. Sometimes.

greatbritain_tmo_2013026_lrg2In 2014, the higher pistes at 3 Scottish resorts had more snow than those at Whistler, Canada - home to the 2010 Winter Olympics. The season started late in Whistler that year. Until the end of December, the base depth of snow on the ground was a pitiful 6 inches. Thankfully, in January the snow came, and the base depth rose to nearly 60 inches! Touche!

 

Scotland is home to the coldest place in the UK.

ice crystals covering a loch

The coldest temperature ever recorded in the UK is -27.2 °c. The record is shared between Altnaharra in Sutherland and Braemar in the highlands. Braemar is no stranger to the cold - they have experienced lows like this before - once in 1895, and again in 1982.

 

Snow in Scotland is really, really old.

ice crystals covering a loch

The oldest patch of snow in scotland was over 216 years old. Nicknamed the Sphinx, this little patch of snow was located at Garbh Choire Mor on Braeriach in the Cairngorms. Anecdotal evidence suggests that it lasted from the early 1700’s until 1933 without melting. Since then, it’s melted 5 times, until it finally disappeared on the 2nd October last year. Thanks global warming!

 

Scotland is way more gnarly than the Alps.

snow in glencoe, scotland.

Ok, ok - don’t shoot the messenger. This one is up for debate, but world class mountaineer Andy Kirkpatrick reckons that “Scottish conditions are potentially 100% more extreme than those found in the Alps, in fact they are more like Patagonia, with super high winds, high humidity, snow and fast changing ground conditions. You have to treat every trip like a mini expedition”. What do you think?

Alec Farmer
Alec Farmer



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