Winter safety message

Outdoor enthusiasts are being urged to stay safe on the hills, slopes and mountains of Scotland this winter. Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, Jamie Hepburn made the call as he met winter safety instructors at The Snow Factor in Glasgow.

This year, Scottish Government funding of £1.5 million is helping ensure safety on the hills. Each year there are around 7.2 million mountaineering or hill walking trips in Scotland’s mountains. As with most outdoor activities there is a certain amount of risk involved in taking to the hills, and in the last recorded calendar year (2012) a total of 720 people had to be assisted by our hard working mountain rescue teams. Of which 240 were injured and 25 people died in mountaineering related incidents.

Jamie Hepburn said:

“Scotland’s hills and mountains are some of our best assets, and in the winter months they can be at their most beautiful. We want people to enjoy the great outdoors, but it’s vital to remember how treacherous this environment can be, even for experienced outdoor enthusiasts.

“The vast majority of walkers, hill runners and snow sport enthusiasts are well prepared, and have safe and enjoyable experiences, but tragic situations do unfortunately happen.

“Simple precautions can save lives. Make sure you have the right equipment before heading for the hills. Ensure it’s in full working order, and you know how to use it properly. Technology can be useful, but don’t rely on that alone to navigate for you. Having a map and compass and the knowledge of how to use them is the best way to stay on course.

“The weather in Scotland – especially on the hills - can change extremely quickly, so check localised weather information and mountain information of the Sportscotland avalanche information service.

“Scotland has lots of excellent training facilities where people can learn and improve their mountain and climbing skills such as the Sportscotland national outdoor training centre at Glenmore Lodge near Aviemore, and also the Snow Factor right here in Glasgow. I urge all outdoor enthusiasts to seek and follow advice from seasoned professionals. Above all, know your limits. Routes that are easy in summer will be more physically demanding and testing in winter months.”

Mark Diggins from the Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service (SAIS) said: "Winter is most certainly upon us now, and we are faced with the normal challenges that a winter in Scotland's mountains present. The beauty of the highland wilderness and the exploration of the hills, mountains and glens provides a great attraction for walkers, climbers, skiers, ski tourers and free-riders. Many thousands of enthusiasts enjoy the Scottish mountains every winter.

“However, the fast changing weather, with its snowfall, avalanche hazard, strong winds, and poor visibility requires us to be much more prepared when going into the mountains in the winter. Good clothing, navigational ability, appropriate equipment, movement skills on steep terrain and use of ice axe and crampons are a necessary requirement for our enjoyment and safety.

“Also, getting good information helps any mountain goer decide where to go and what to do. Avalanche reports and other useful information which helps with this important process can be obtained from the Sportscotland Avalanche Information Service at and Met Office and MWIS websites."

Shaun Roberts, Principal of sportscotland Glenmore Lodge, Scotland’s National Outdoor Training Centre, said:

“Thousands of people will participate in hillwalking, mountaineering and snow sports this winter. Many critical safety decisions will be made, and the planning and evaluation of information forms the fundamentals of staying safe on the mountains. We have access to world class information services, and it’s vital that we work collaboratively to ensure participants stay as safe as possible whilst enjoying the Scottish mountains.

“The winter environment and the challenges it presents insist that individuals use informed judgment and skills to journey through our hills and mountains. At Glenmore Lodge we invest significant time, resource and energy into the development of national qualifications and would encourage anyone to find a leader, instructor or guide to support their adventures.”

Detailed safety advice is available on the Mountaineering Council for Scotland website

  • Date published: 15 December 2014
  • Date updated: 04 May 2016
  • Published by: sportscotland