The ski area is unusual for Scottish hill land because of its complex bedrock and the high fertility of most of its soils. Reflecting this fertility, the stone ruins of old shielings from past centuries occur at a higher altitude than recorded elsewhere in the north-east Highlands, as do moles and breeding frogs.
Many uncommon lime-loving plants grow on the ski area and nearby, the long established Caenlochan National Nature Reserve is Britain's second richest site for rare arctic-alpine flora.
A higher population density of ptarmigan has been found on the ski area than recorded anywhere else in the world, and red grouse and mountain hares are unusually abundant. Dotterel, golden plover, ring ouzels, twites and occasionally snow buntings can be found breeding, whilst peregrine falcons, golden eagles and ravens hunt the area.
As well as the nature reserve at Caenlochan, there have long been Sites of Special Scientific Interest on the ski area at Glas Choire and nearby on Cairnwell. More recently, under European legislation, a Special Protection Area for birds and a Special Area of Conservation for vegetation have been designated, both of which include part of the ski area.
Construction and operation of the ski facilities have caused no adverse effects on the bird populations or rare plants. The Company has welcomed independent monitoring of environmental impacts and reinstatement since 1986, when it also commissioned the first environmental baseline study of any Scottish ski area.
The top of the Cairnwell Chairlift offers the best panorama of the Cairngorms to be seen from any Scottish ski area.
By Dr Adam Watson
(BSc, PhD, DSc, DUniv, CBiol, FInstBiol, FCEH, FRSE, FArcticInst North America)