Skiing has been enjoyed on Aonach Mor since the 1930’s, predominately by local skiers. However it was not until 1968, that the area’s full economic potential was recognised. In 1974 a planning report was produced, sponsored by the Scottish Tourist Board, concerning the prospect of a winter sports development in Fort William, and essentially developing the area as an all year round tourist destination.
Numerous further feasibility studies were commissioned concerning the engineering, ecology and viability of a development on Aonach Mor and finally in August 1986 the project won approval from the Highland Region’s Planning Committee. The following three years required considerable effort to secure both public and private funding for the development, however the support and backing was successful when construction finally began in December 1988.
During the construction, considerable effort was made to create an environmentally acceptable area, all work carried out was in compliance with planning controls and restrictions were put in place to protect the environment. Buildings were designed to blend with surrounding vegetation, helicopters were used for all construction work (at high cost!) and no bulldozing was permitted throughout the process of piste creation. Nevis Range has been hailed as the model of a well-managed, low impact development.
Despite the severe controversy that surrounded the development for many years, the considerable effort and hard work (blood, sweat and tears on many individuals parts!) was finally proven worthwhile, when on the 19th December 1989 Ian Sykes and his team opened Nevis Range to the public.
The installation of the skiing facilities at Aonach Mor were implemented as a multi-phase project, with one of the latter developments; the Braveheart Chair, being constructed during 1997, eight years after the ski centre first opened.
The centre continues to evolve in response to competitive and environmental factors, it is no longer just a winter ski area; the gondola is a highly acclaimed year round visitor attraction in its own right. Nevis Range is now also an internationally acclaimed venue for mountain biking; having hosted numerous international and national competitions it is hailed as one of the best Mountain Biking destinations worldwide.
The downhill mountain bike track was first developed on the lower slopes of Aonach Mor in 1994, being regularly used by bikers and hill walkers. Over the years with the increased demand and growing number of events being hosted the track gradually started to creep further up the hill. In 1998 discussions began to extend the track to the top station and provide gondola access for riders and their bikes, the completed track was opened to the public in September 2000.
Nevis Range has, in partnership with the Forestry Commission, developed the mountain biking facilities available onsite to include both a X-Country and 4-Cross track, consequently becoming the first venue to host all three World Cup disciplines. Fort William welcomed its first World Cup in 2002, and has now hosted a UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 15 times and the World Championships in 2007.