Sunday 22 January 2017

Not much snow in the Cairngorms. Is this usual?

The Cairngorms, January 17, 2017

There's not much snow in the Cairngorms at present and some people are wondering how unusual this is. I've been asked about it by a few people and have seen comments on social media. Well, the answer is simple. No, it's not unusual. Most winters snow comes and goes. Some years there is unbroken deep cover for several months, some years the snow is mostly thin and patchy.

And sometimes change happens in a few days, as these pictures from this month show.

8th January, little snow

13th January, complete cover down to glen level - enough for me to go snowshoeing from home

16th January, a rapid thaw has stripped away most of the snow

Sometimes the change is from one month to the next. Here are two pictures from 2013.

Little snow on Cairn Gorm, January 11, 2013

The Cairngorm Plateau, February 19, 2013

Is this a low snow winter is another question people are asking?  It's far too early to tell! I'd say we won't know until May. Sometimes the snow comes late, very late. That was the case in 2012. There was some snow high up in January, February and March but it was thin and patchy and not enough for skiing, whether downhill or touring. Heavy snow didn't arrive until April. But it then stayed well into May, causing problems for some TGO Challengers on their way across Scotland. That year I had my best ski tour on May 1 when I skied from Coire Cas car park to Ben Macdui and back on deep snow.

Cairn Gorm, May 1, 2012

Ben Macdui, May 1, 2012

So there's still plenty of time for a good snowy winter!


  1. Hi Chris,
    You might be interested in some of the work from my PhD. For example: