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'Exceptional leader' is 'genuinely thrilled' to take over permanently at Cairngorm Mountain as she is named ideal candidate to open 'exciting new chapter'


By Tom Ramage

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Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd has appointed Susan Smith to the role of chief executive.

Ms Smith has held the role of interim chief executive at CMSL since 2019, on secondment from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, where she was head of business development.

Susan Smith, Chief Executive
Susan Smith, Chief Executive

Her appointment to the permanent post follows an open recruitment process that took place over the past few months, and was confirmed by CMSL board members at their regular meeting on Tuesday.

The company is a subsidiary of HIE, which acquired the assets of the previous private operator at Cairngorm from administrators in December 2018.

It runs a broad range of activities across the 3,500 acre estate, including a ranger service and access to trails and footpaths, as well as the famous snowsports centre with its accompanying shop and catering outlets.

The recent introduction of an adventure playpark has proven a popular addition at Cairngorm, and signalled an increased focus on building the resort’s appeal as a family attraction in all seasons of the year.

Currently, the resort is closed as staff prepare for the upcoming winter season when a combination of real and manufactured snow is expected to draw hundreds of skiers and snowboarders to Cairngorm every day.

The season is scheduled to get under way on Friday, December 17.

Cairngorm Mountain: the cafe, base station and store. Picture: Trevor Martin/HIE
Cairngorm Mountain: the cafe, base station and store. Picture: Trevor Martin/HIE

However, opening day could be a little earlier if conditions are suitable.

The chair of the board of CMSL, Peter Mearns, said: “Susan Smith emerged as the successful candidate after a rigorous selection process which saw applications from across the UK and internationally. She is an exceptional leader and the ideal person to take Cairngorm Mountain forward into a new and exciting chapter.

“Her energy and commitment to Cairngorm have already steered the company through some extremely challenging events, including the ongoing absence of the funicular railway as a key asset, and of course, the impacts of Covid.

“Just as importantly, she has a vision for the future that aims to establish Cairngorm Mountain once again as one of Scotland’s prime visitor attractions and an economic engine for the local community.”

Ms Smith said: “I am genuinely thrilled to have been appointed as chief executive of Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd. It’s a real privilege.

“Any successful business relies on its people, and the team here are wonderful, not only in their knowledge of the mountain, but in their ambition for the company and all their hard work to deliver excellent service to our customers.

“We all believe totally in Cairngorm and in doing everything we can to realise its full potential in the years ahead as a centre for sports, the environment, education and the economy, and as a vital part of the culture of Strathspey and Badenoch.”

Douglas Cowan, director of communities and place with HIE, said: “Cairngorm Mountain (Scotland) Ltd is an important business in its own right and also helps to generate wider economic benefits for the local area by attracting visitors throughout the year.

“In the coming years, especially when the funicular railway is reinstated, the company will play a key role with HIE and other partner organisations to deliver the ambitions of the Cairngorm masterplan that we published earlier this year.

“I am delighted to congratulate Susan on her appointment as chief executive and look forward to working closely with her to make CMSL a great success and maximise its impact in the years ahead.”


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