Lowther Hills Ski Club
The Lowther Hills Ski Club www.skiclub.lowtherhills.com/ is a community interest company building and managing snow sport facilities in and above the Southern Uplands villages of Wanlockhead and Leadhills in the south of Scotland. We are all volunteers, and volunteers from far and wide are the lifeblood of the ski club, making the most of the freely given materials and generous donations that have brought us so far already. I've taken lots of photos of our work and some of the people doing it over the last 2 and a bit years so as to document our progress and I'll be adding more as we go along.
This old machinery is enjoying a new lease of life on Lowther Hill. The Harwood Ski area in the English Pennines ran ski tows from the mid-1960's but eventually closed due to lack of volunteer support.
On Lowther Hill, digging in towers - the work parties in October and November 2014 were well supported and most of the ex-Harwood pylons were dug in over the course of just a few weekends.
December 2014 - Donald Chalmers and other volunteers preparing to move the engine from Leadhills to the summit of Lowther Hill. The tractor engine is equipped with sled rails so as it can slide on mud, snow and grass.
Anjo works on the latch doors to the engine shed which will allow the rope to run unimpeded. The shed was formerly a garage in Leadhills and after some basic groundwork preparations, we quite literally rebuilt it on the hill around the tractor engine.
We have set-up a ratchet system to allow the rope to be correctly tensioned and adjusted for length. The hemp rope is subject to a little shrinkage and expansion as the humidity and temperature change throughout the season so this needs to be mitigated for. In this picture you can also see the results of our temporary snow fence experiment.
In certain wind directions, our terrain lends itself to creating lengthy drifts which can be easily turned to skiable runs. With snow fencing, we expect to be able to make the runs bigger, deeper, and in resisting thaws, with the assistance of the snow groomer which we are currently raising funds towards, to offer well groomed and highly reliable ski pistes.
Thanks to the generosity of our members and supporters, we successfully crowdfunded our webcams and got them installed and set-up with the freely given time and expertise of the Inverness based Alan Mackay of winterhighland, a linchpin of the Scottish skiing world.
At the top of the tow on Lowther Hill is a set of rollers, or rope guides. These allow the up and down feeds to remain separate and friction free as they run from the drive to the top pylon.
Sometimes work parties last all weekend. When Alan Mackay of winterhighland came down from Inverness in August 2016 to install additional webcam components and solar panels, we all camped on the hill to save on time and costs.
A season 2015-2016 experiment, alongside the 200 metre stretch of plastic fencing was a 25 metre wide and 50 cm deep drift which lasted long after the thaws. We are (as of October 2016) installing permanent wooden fencing because the plastic mesh proved to be both too fragile and required too much maintenance.
Ross of Moffat, Anjo of Wanlockhead and Des and Cath of Edinburgh pose against our latest handiwork, a safety barrier to ensure users cannot approach the moving parts of the rope tow machinery without triggering a switch which will stop the engine.
The generosity and freely given time of our members is what makes the ski club thrive. Here, thanks to a member who's a fencer, we're building a new snow fence from scratch on Lowther Hill.
After transceiver search and avalanche rescue exercises above Leadhills village, we built a snowhole in which Craig and volunteer Jamie enjoyed a rest from the cold and some hot soup.
The NATS road affords some colourful chance encounters. This time, the snow fencing work party volunteers meet with a mountain biker who uses metal-studded tyres to enjoy the ride to the summit all year round.