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Multi-million pound plans to transform dry ski slope

Midlothian Council hopes to add a zipline, alpine coaster and hotel to the Hillend site.

Hillend: What the new site could look like after redevelopment. Midlothian Council

One of Scotland’s most popular dry ski slopes is set to receive a multimillion-pound makeover.

Midlothian Council has agreed to invest £13.8m into developing Midlothian Snowsports Centre – most commonly known as Hillend Ski Centre – into an all-year, multi-activity leisure facility.

New features planned for the site – subject to planning approvals – include building the highest zipline and longest alpine coaster in the UK.

The council also hopes to add retail space, a food court and function area, a new reception, and an activity dome with high ropes and soft play.

In addition, part of the site has been earmarked for a hotel along with glamping tourist accommodation.

Midlothian: The centre will be upgraded over the next three years. Google 2019

It is thought the centre has the potential to create more than 30 full-time jobs with the council, as well as a further 50 on the site in food, retail and accommodation units.

A £300,000 contract to design and build a funslope is currently up for grabs after being lodged with Public Contracts Scotland this week.

The first phase is out for tender, with companies invited to put forward their bids by August 12.

Funslopes have become increasingly popular across ski resorts and typically include bends, hills and obstacles to challenge those who take on the challenge.

Hillend, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, has been open to the public for more than 50 years and is an all-year training facility for snow-sport athletes.

It faced closure in 2010 due to operating at a loss. However, the council later agreed to keep the centre open following investment by Sportscotland and the sale of greenbelt land nearby.

The council believes the £13.8m investment – which will be phased over the next three years – will eventually generate income to “partially help offset the impact of continued restraints on public sector funding”.

Council leader Derek Milligan said: “With the current financial constraints, we’re very aware this investment needs to pay for itself in the future and indeed generate additional income that could be ploughed back into vital council services such as education, health and social care.

“It would also help secure the future of this important leisure facility.

“The enhanced facilities, with the highest zipwire in the UK, the longest alpine coaster and the indoor high ropes and soft play, will attract families from Midlothian and beyond.”

The news comes at a turbulent time within the Scottish ski industry – with the 2018/19 winter the second-worst season on record for snow cover and visitor numbers.

The funicular railway at Cairngorm was also out of action – preventing skiers from gaining access to the Aviemore resort’s highest and snowiest slopes.

Artificial snow and dry slopes are often cited as a solution to the unpredictable Scottish weather.

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