'The Game'

Scottish backcountry skiing is all about ‘the game’. Every winter, those that choose to play it will spend time almost every day poring over weather charts and trying to build a picture of where the best conditions might be. This picture is complicated by highly localised weather systems and ferocious winds which commonly strip the mountains of any new snow which has fallen. The line between finding a gully either full to the brim with powder, or choked with sheet ice is often a thin one.

With so many variables at play, even veterans of ‘the game’ regularly head into the mountains only 50% confident that their assertions about conditions are correct. The remaining 50% based on gambling on some sort of blind hope. This is what can make Scottish ski days so rewarding. Every day out is a full-on adventure, with the unknowns only adding to the excitement.

A couple of years back, we took a punt on some early season snowfall in the east and set off into the Cairngorms, reaching the plateau in time for sunrise. It was exactly one of those days where we had no idea what to expect. Conditions could easily either have been incredible or total crap. As it was, we had a bit of luck that day, resulting in one of the most memorable days I’ve ever had on a pair of skis.

 Pete Mackenzie dropping into Diagonal Gully as the sun rises over the Cairngorms

Pete Mackenzie dropping into Diagonal Gully as the sun rises over the Cairngorms

 Scoping out his line moments before dropping into an atmospheric, clag filled Pinnacle Gully

Scoping out his line moments before dropping into an atmospheric, clag filled Pinnacle Gully