The Inverness Backcountry Snowsports Club would like to build a mountain hut on the east flank of Aonach Mor. The hut, with sleeping room for 8-12 people, would be sited at grid reference NN202742, a few hundred metres northeast of Coire an Lochain, below the 'Climber's Col' and near the Braveheart Chair in the Back Corries area of the Nevis Range ski centre.
Though the idea has yet to reach the official planning stage, a step that may not be taken until the expected introduction of a new Scottish regulatory regime for huts and bothies, initial outlines have been published on the club's website - see here.
While warming winters have pushed the average snowline further uphill, reducing the scope for lower level cross country skiing, ski touring on the high hills has become more popular, they explain.
"As the club member[ship] grows, interest in off-piste skiing grows and the scene develops" the club say, "it is felt that a dedicated club hut is a logical and desirable progression which will allow more people to enjoy the snow and wild spaces whilst being a good example of sympathetic and appropriate accommodation in the mountains."
Of various sites considered by the club, this was felt to be the most suitable to pursue, for a number of reasons:
- Its spectacular mountain location with access to great skiing and mountaineering terrain
- Reliable snow-holding record between January and May, and sometimes beyond
- Outside the adjacent Special Area of Conservation
- Access to intermediate, snow-reliable terrain across the valley from the "Back Corries" / resort
- Relative ease of access for repairs, maintenance and extraction through the winter, for anyone with the necessary level on skis
- Its position 6km from the road is close enough to walk in and proceed to further activities, and close enough to evacuate if ever necessary in all but the most extreme weather - but far enough to significantly broaden recreational access possibilities
- Navigation to / from the suggested site is relatively simple in most conditions
The proposal forsees the hut being used by members of Snowsport Scotland affiliated clubs, Mountaineering Scotland members and clubs, guides and instructor-led parties, and educational groups.
The Scottish Government has created a new class of building – "Huts and Bothies" which are to be constructed according to guidance being prepared with assistance from Reforesting Scotland.
Though the specifics of these building standards are still pending, the club says that if the hut gains planning approval it will be constructed to high environmental standards, with maximum insulation and an eco-friendly toilet. Built to withstand wild weather, it will be designed in sensitivity with its surroundings, they say.
Permission to build has been given by the landowner, Jahama Highland Estates. Prior to applying for planning permission, the club are currently consulting with relevant organisations and other stakeholders.