Cairngorm mountain

Highland
Outer Hebrides
Orkney
Shetland
Moray
Aberdeenshire
arthur49
Posts: 180
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2021 12:38 pm
Location: Perth
Has thanked: 54 times
Been thanked: 63 times

Re: Cairngorm mountain

Post by arthur49 »

Steve wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 6:37 pm Maybe a bit of advise about the way touring motorcaravans travel would be welcomed and they could allow booking up to time of arrival or maybe a few hours before arriving.
I have posted my own personal thoughts on their FB page dated, I think, 6 Sept. Black waste going down through a grate suggests somebody hasn't a clue about emptying a cassette!!!! :shock: :shock: :shock:
The Sooz
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:24 pm
Has thanked: 5 times
Been thanked: 19 times

Re: Cairngorm mountain

Post by The Sooz »

Having tried to stay there last Saturday but frustrated by their slot time booking system I wrote to CMSL and copied in other relevant agencies. Here is a copy of my email and the reply from their acting CEO. I also received an acknowledgment from one of the local councillors and Parkswatch Scotland who suggested forwarding the email to the local paper 'The Strathy'. I've not done this yet but may do so to get more coverage but would welcome thoughts from folk as to whether this is appropriate or not.

Dear Madam/Sir

Having stayed here in the past and most recently tried to stay last Saturday night I wanted to offer some constructive criticism as a long term camper van user, a long term visitor to Cairngorm mountain and in a professional capacity, as an economic development consultant.

On previous visits, I found the camping area easy to use although it was a bit of a search for the donation box which is located right up the far end from the entrance. It would have been far better placed right at the entrance with a supply of envelopes to enclose a donation and log registration number details.

However at the weekend I was in the area and decided to try out the new facilities and was hugely disappointed.

Firstly, what is the reasoning behind only three book in time slots?

I arrived at 6pm to queue behind another camper van who was finding the process rather difficult. He could only book the 8pm slot so, having already paid, he then had 1.5 hours to kill before he could get the access code. Whilst I was waiting, another two camper vans arrived behind us. Once learning that we could only gain access 1hr 30mins later, we about turned about and headed up to Coire Cas to park up there. With 45 places at the Ciste, on a busy day during the summer, at best you will have 15 vans arriving at any allocated time all trying to get in. This will cause a traffic jam. There were only four vans queued up on Saturday and the last was already hanging over onto the road. And that's not accounting for those who turn up on spec like myself. It is inevitable that folk will turn around when they realise they cannot get immediate access and this will cause even more of a traffic hazard in addition to adding to more traffic on the road which doesn't exactly add to your green credentials in your masterplan.

Part of the camper van appeal is the freedom of movement and last minute decisions to go to a place. Obviously if somewhere is fully booked that's a chance you take but when I arrived on Saturday there was only one other van in the Ciste and it was most frustrating to learn I couldn't gain access for at least another hour and a half. This is nonsensical and given the number of vans parked up at the Cas (19 I counted), I'm not the only one who thinks so. You are just displacing vans elsewhere, if they cannot gain access when they arrive.

Whilst I don't mind paying £15 many others think it is too expensive and for the basic facilities you offer, £5-10 would be more appropriate. In addition, the place is a right mess. With a bit of foresight, the old buildings could be improved to offer toilets and showers so currently paying £15 to park on a building site is not very appealing for most.

Assuming the 19 vans paid the requested £2 donation at the Cas car park, then that generated £38 for you but I bet not all did. Had they accessed the Ciste park then you'd have generated £285. That's not to say they would all have stayed and paid that amount but you need to get the balance right and time slots are not going to help.

The location of the Ciste means that many folk will arrive later in the evening for activities on the hills the following day but your current set up doesn't allow for that. Take heed of how aires and stellplatz on the continent do it. They are welcoming, they are not overly expensive, charging a minimum plus extra if you need to fill up or empty, they are not complicated or restrictive. As it currently stands, there is nothing to stop a camper van parking up out with the compound and walking in to empty their toilet cassette. And from any photos I've seen, the black waste (toilet) is a drain in the ground and the grey waste is down a chute type facility. Most camper vans and motorhomes empty their grey waste directly over a drain so I can't see how this would work unless they empty their grey waste into a bucket first, then empty it down the chute, adding further hassle.

At the very least you need to change your time slots to allow access around the clock for a 24 hour stay and please consider reducing the nightly fee until such time as the funicular building work is completed and the place is more pleasant to be in. Having stayed there in the summer I'm aware of the early wake up call when the construction workers start breaking up boulders.


Secondly, Coire Cas

Oh dear, this place is an embarrassment to Scotland in one of the most sensitive natural areas we have. You received European funding for the funicular as I recall. Having visited many mountain resorts around Europe who must've also received such funding I'm wondering how Cairngorm got it so wrong. The place is a total mess. The whole place looks like an industrial wasteland rather than a mountain resort. I understand that the funicular is being repaired but I also have read that the feasibility of this is questionable and you are only flinging good money after bad. Would it not be better to admit it was a bad idea and put in decent uplift in gondolas and chairlifts to support year round activities on the mountain? Until such time that the funicular is finished - and that timeframe seems to regularly get put back - the car park and welcoming area is always going to be a building site.

The location of the snowmaking machinery and generators right in front of the main building beggars belief as it totally spoils what must be one of the most beautiful views in this country. From your masterplan, I understand that this is a temporary location and they will be moved to the lower slopes but again not likely until the funicular is repaired.

Your masterplan is a 25 year vision of nothing but flowery words. I note that you are currently advertising for a new Chief Executive. I only hope that they make a better job of the area than what has been evidenced so far. As it stands, Cairngorm Mountain has sunk to the bottom of Scottish winter resorts, which is a tragedy. There have been many calls for a local community buy-out and I think this would be the best way forward, insofar as to rebuild trust in the community in the first instance. With this in mind I have copied other agencies with a vested interest in Cairngorm Mountain.

I look forward to hearing from you


****



CC:

Highlands and Islands Enterprise
Scottish Government
Cairngorms National Park
Councillor John Bruce, Highland Council
Councillor Muriel Cockburn, Highland Council
Councillor Pippa Hadley, Highland Council
Councillor Bill Lobban, Highland Council
Aviemore and Glenmore Trust
Parkswatch Scotland



Their response:

Thank you for taking the time to write to me and others on your experience of using the new Campervan Facility in the Ciste Area at Cairngorm Mountain.



To answer your questions I respond below as outlined in your email:



Reason Behind Three Book-in Time Slots

Our facility opened on 7 Sep 2021 and we wanted to set time slots to avoid campervans turning up and causing any noise or disruption to people already using the facility. We want to avoid customers turning up ‘on-spec’ and have a managed facility. We started with two booking slots, with one aimed at allowing some availability to facilitate campervans that have arrived in the area later. This was aimed at the users you have described as ‘making last minute decisions to go to a place’. During the first two weeks of operation we spoke to users and with their feedback increased time slots on the booking system.


Online Booking System

I note your frustration regarding the online booking system as it is currently. We are in the process of changing the platform and system we use and this will provide us with greater flexibility on booking slots and timings, which we believe will alleviate the issue that you have highlighted.


Price at £15.00 Per Night

We realise that price is a factor for some customers. The cost of establishing this facility was c. £60k and as such we have had to establish what we believe to be a reasonable price for the safe and proper removal of all forms of waste, including chemical toilets which also comes with an operational cost in removing waste from the closed system tank that has been installed. The price we set is comparable to facilities at Findhorn. We have regularly asked for customer feedback and on the same day as you used the site we received highly positive feedback on the facility in comparison with other sites across the Highlands.
We are currently considering trialling an ‘off-peak’ week night price of £10.00 per night to test price sensitivity.


Waste Disposal

Disposal of waste on the site can be made using the grey water discharge, or if you have a fixed system you can drive across the chemical toilet discharge point and dispose of the grey waste in the same drain – as your email has suggested.
We are working on improving the signage to make this more obvious to customers and will emphasise this within the booking information.


Funicular Works

We endorse the view that you have expressed regarding the visual impact in the Coire Cas area. However, with major construction works underway on the Funicular reinstatement and the associated health and safety obligations to keep staff, customers and contractors safe this will remain in-situ until the works are completed.
We have a major car park upgrading project in-hand but this has been delayed until next year.
The ‘Snowfactory’ location was chosen in Dec 2018 as an expedient way upon which to deploy the infrastructure to enable artificial snow on the lower slopes at a time when CMSL was incepted just prior to the winter season. We are currently working with ‘CNPA’ re a planning application for relocation. However, any relocation requires additional power capacity and we are acutely aware of the importance of this matter.


Your view on the Masterplan and the way forward will I’m sure be added into the mix as our parent company considers the Governance and Operating Model for Cairngorm Mountain in the future.



I’m sorry if you feel that my response is lengthy, but I want to provide you with a fulsome explanation on the points that you have kindly raised.



Regards – Susan.



Susan Smith

Interim Chief Executive

Cairngorm Mountain
arthur49
Posts: 180
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2021 12:38 pm
Location: Perth
Has thanked: 54 times
Been thanked: 63 times

Re: Cairngorm mountain

Post by arthur49 »

Good letter. Thank you for your efforts.

I know the Ciste well. I agree with everything you say (but £10 is very fair). I suspect the black waste drain has changed as I was led to believe it was dumped through a metal grate :shock:

I think things will improve as its changed from one of those "cracking spots" for a donation to grossly underused.

Might look in past ourselves as we're off today for a week+ visiting 'Aires' in NE Scotland and I may drop Susan Smith a constructive email myself when I've experienced it first hand.
The Sooz
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:24 pm
Has thanked: 5 times
Been thanked: 19 times

Re: Cairngorm mountain

Post by The Sooz »

Parkswatchscotland were copied into my original email and have commented on the issue via their blog

http://parkswatchscotland.co.uk/2021/10 ... airn-gorm/
The Sooz
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:24 pm
Has thanked: 5 times
Been thanked: 19 times

Re: Cairngorm mountain

Post by The Sooz »

Further to my earlier posting of the email I sent to CMSL, here is further dialogue between us. I have since replied again but will post that once I get a response:


Me:

Thank you for your lengthy and considered reply to my previous email which is appreciated.

The main point I would raise in response would be the reasoning for the time slots. If, like you say, the time slots were in place to avoid disturbing campervans already in situ, then surely it would be more logical to have a latest check in time of say 10pm or 11pm?

Notwithstanding I would still advise that access should be allowed around the clock as, unlike caravans or tents, campervans and motorhomes park up with the minimum of fuss and hassle, just like parking a car. The transient nature of campervan ownership means there is an expectation and acceptance that within the fraternity, there will always be more comings and goings. It is in fact part of the appeal.

This leads me to ask, what are the current arrangements for a campervan if they book, pay, arrive, gain access but then perhaps wish to leave soon after to tour the area or get supplies before returning again to pitch up for the night? This is highly probable, especially with one of your current time slots being 1pm. Can they get back in again?


CMSL:

Thanks for your further comments on our advance booking and arrival process.

The system we are using is an interim facility and is not bespoke; we are utilising it as best we can to accommodate the needs of the visitor group. Whilst we understand it may not align fully with these needs at present it remains under constant review and we will be taking all feedback into discussion for operations next season.

Re: the arrangements for accessing the site, the gate code is only ever changed during the break between morning check-out at 11am and the first check-in at 1pm so visitors are able to travel in and out of the facility as they please during the remainder of the day. This may not be clearly evident from our website so I will relay this to our team and it will be added to the existing information.
arthur49
Posts: 180
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2021 12:38 pm
Location: Perth
Has thanked: 54 times
Been thanked: 63 times

Re: Cairngorm mountain

Post by arthur49 »

Just for interest we called in past at 1pm today (a holiday Monday). The 'Aire' was deserted.

It has all the facilities CAMpRA like to see - CDP, drinking water, grey waste - but I really can't recommend it. Booking system may be interim but is clearly broken!

Arthur
Steve
Posts: 1730
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2020 11:31 am
Has thanked: 349 times
Been thanked: 309 times

Re: Cairngorm mountain

Post by Steve »

Maybe time to get our members to email with thank you for providing the facilities but if this is to operate as an Aire and not a campsite then your need to allow open access with no time slots.

Having set arrival and departure times is one of the biggest complaints of touring motorcaravans and actually contributes to congestion by every trying to arrive or leave at the same time.

This practice was implemented by clubs as it is difficult to reverse with a long caravan outfit if you meet oncoming traffic, unlike a motorcaravan whicj is a motor vehicle abd has reverse gears.
Steve - CAMpRA Leadership Team
arthur49
Posts: 180
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2021 12:38 pm
Location: Perth
Has thanked: 54 times
Been thanked: 63 times

Re: Cairngorm mountain

Post by arthur49 »

IMy email to Susan Smith:

"Dear Ms Smith

We really welcome the creation of this overnight stop. Its great to experience something other than attempts to corral us onto a caravan park! But, by way of sympathetic constructive feedback:-

- the booking system is a complete deterrent to us. I understand this may be an interim measure but I'm unsure why there needs to be 3 arrival time slots. When we stopped for a look on Monday 1pm it was deserted - I can't see how any obstruction could be caused by having open arrival, with code, from say midday?

- appreciate a lot of money has been spent circa £60k, but at £15/night its a bit on the high side, £10/night I'm sure would attract more overnighters.

We've been campervanning for many years. Please accept these suggestions in the spirit in which they are offered.

Yours sincerely ....... "

EDIT: Since writing this I've learned from someone I trust that black waste goes into the grey waste drive over drain - sounds OK until you find there is a metal grate there! Clearly no experienced campervan user or anyone who has ever emptied a cassette, was involved in this design .............
Attachments
Lift plate there is a grate underneath!
Lift plate there is a grate underneath!
20211004_130848.jpg (4.54 MiB) Viewed 91 times
arthur49
Posts: 180
Joined: Wed Mar 31, 2021 12:38 pm
Location: Perth
Has thanked: 54 times
Been thanked: 63 times

Re: Cairngorm mountain

Post by arthur49 »

Reply from Susan Smith. I've simply acknowledged it. If we can get workable booking system then I'd be happy to do CAA for it. Then work on CDP with them !!!!
"Dear Arthur
Many thanks for your constructive feedback on our site.
You are correct in assuming the booking system is being used in the interim as we trial the facility. It is not bespoke to the needs of the visitor group and we are utilising it as best we can. The option of time slots is in place so that customers can receive the automatically broadcasted SMS message with the code for the entrance gate in advance of their estimated arrival.
Our team are working on a short-term solution to accommodate bookings both in advance and on arrival as we understand that many campervan users will want to stopover on a more ad-hoc basis and not be restricted by having to plan ahead.
We will review the facility following the trial period and all feedback received will be considered as we adapt our procedures for reopening next season.
Regards – Susan."
The Sooz
Posts: 13
Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2021 12:24 pm
Has thanked: 5 times
Been thanked: 19 times

Re: Cairngorm mountain

Post by The Sooz »

Just for info, my final dialogue. I'm going to leave it for the time being unless, of course, there are any further issues that need commenting on. Appreciate others who have taken the time to comment also. ParkswatchScotland are also quite vocal on the subject thought it's only part of a wider agenda for them holding a public body to account.

Hope it's not too confusing as we are both called Susan.

My correspondence:

ME:
Dear Susan
Thanks again for your quick response. I do hope the feedback you receive is considered and implemented.

It is reassuring to learn that paid campervans, after they have gained entry, can come and go as they please but this then questions your reasoning of having time slots so that ‘in situ’ campervans are not disturbed by the comings and going’s of others. This makes no sense whatsoever and only bolsters the argument for the removal of times slots completely.

I look forward to hearing from you

Regards


CMSL REPLY:
Dear Susan

As I have previously mentioned, we are utilising the interim booking system as best we can. You will note from the booking information on the website that the gate code is broadcast automatically via SMS which is one of the reasons behind the offering of three arrival times so visitors can receive the code in advance of their estimated arrival at the site.

Please be assured that we will be reviewing all feedback received following this initial trial period of the facility and plan to implement any changes for the site reopening next season.

Regards – Susan.

ME:
Dear Susan

Thanks again for your reply. It would indeed be great to see all feedback on improvements implemented and the campervan site a successful and positive experience in the future.

Thanks again for your time.

Regards
Post Reply