When I received the email from Ourea Events saying this year would be the last one from this corner of the highlands, nestled in the iconic snug at the foot of the Mamores, my heart sank a little. I signed up for the Ring of Steall race in 2019 and due to quad cramp didn’t make the cut off. My intention was to go back and have a better crack at it but with a month’s notice there was no way I was going to be ready to go this year.
I decided to go up to Kinlochleven to take in the event village and see what I could find out. Anyone that hasn’t been to the village before, it’s a quaint little place that is a pass through for the West Highland Way. It lies 7 miles from Glencoe village, there are two roads that give access, and they would only get used to visit Kinlochleven. That said it is ideally situated to access the wide range of trails Salomon Skyline Scotland have developed over the years.
Image credit: Davy Wright
The event began in 2015 with Salomon Glencoe Skyline, the inaugural version started at the Glencoe Mountain Resort (also known as the ski centre). In 2016 it moved in to Kinlochleven adding the Ring of Steall and the Mamores VK. Over the years the list of races has grown to this years total of nine routes, which includes the kids race of course. The list of participants over its tenure has included Killian Jornet, who will now hold both the Ring of Steall and the Glencoe Skyline records for keeps, and Emelie Forsberg, who holds the female record for the Glencoe Skyline, along with many other elite athletes.
Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg at the Salomon Glencoe Skyline 2017. Image credit: ©Guillem Casanova
All three Skyrunning Races are very technical, the Skyline is a Grade 3 scramble in places. The route description on the website clearly states there are no fixed ropes. In all, these are formidable routes and should be approached with respect and humility. The Ring of Steall is part of the Golden Trail National Series, which shows the respect the trail & sky running community give the routes in Scotland.
The first female to cross the line in the Salomon Ring of Steall this year, in a blistering 4hrs 19min 9 seconds, was Sara Willhoit. She told me “the Ring of Steall is a race I have always wanted to do.” Describing the routes “long ascents, exhilarating ridge traverses” around the “glacial hanging valley” is what makes this “a truly iconic race.” She finished saying “I am very lucky to have been able to race the Skyline Scotland in its final year here and look forward to seeing the new plans unfold and what might be next!”
Sara Willhoit, first lady at the Salomon Ring of Steall 2023. Image credit: ©No Limits Photography
So what is the future of Skyline Scotland, where is it going to be, and will the new location be able to compete with the stature of the current routes? I caught up with Shane Ohly, CEO of Ourea Events and Race Director of Salomon Skyline Scotland. We talked about why the move from where we stood in the event village, he explained “I’m ambitious about what Skyline Scotland can become”. As Shane recounted his vision for the event, I could see the excitement of the opportunity there was in his face. He is striving for Skyline Scotland to be up there with European events, like the Innsbruck Alpine Trailrun Festival which hosted the Mountain Trail World Championships this year.
He described the spectators on the route and the atmosphere around the Austrian race. To allow that vision there needs to be the infrastructure to support it. With over 2000 entries across all the current races offered “the venue cannot sustain any more growth” Shane explains. This has led to a hard decision but “an opportunity to reset, to be really bold with the vision of where we can go with the event.”
Gavin Dale, first man at the Salomon Ring of Steall 2023. Image credit: ©No Limits Photography
As this event has “grown beyond our wildest expectations” the organising team at Skyline Scotland & Ourea Events made the hard decision of moving its location. When asked what locations were in contention, he wouldn’t give much away, apart from there are two venues they are in discussion with. Planning has already started for the routes and they have tested draft races. For the reset to work they didn’t want to rush the process which is why Skyline Scotland will return in its new home in 2025.
Salomon have been the title sponsor of the event since its inception in 2015, and the Golden Trails National Series final still needs a home in 2024. So, to fill the hole no race next year leaves, Shane did let on to “a one off special race somewhere in the UK just for Salomon”. Another exciting race opportunity for trail runners!
Chelsea Creak, who was second lady in the Salomon Ring of Steall 2023. Image credit: ©No Limits Photography
I did confess to Shane my selfish disappointment of there not being another chance for me to come back to do the Ring of Steall in better style. He has made assurances to me and the rest of the running community; “we’ll have something better, I’m promising you now, what we have planned is better!” There can only be a couple of venues in Scotland that could challenge the vistas surrounding Kinlochleven. Where could it be? From talking to some of the other runners, there were a couple of rumours and opinions. All of them a bit further north. There is no date when all this will be confirmed but I look forward to finding out.
As we wrapped up our brief chat, after all, he was overseeing a major running event, I asked what his thoughts on the current venue were. Shane happily responded that they had been given “a very warm welcome, hospitable welcome” and that he hopes Skyline Scotland has “been a positive experience for local community and businesses.” During the run up to the race, through surveys carried out by Ourea Events, people recceing the route will visit with 3 friends and stay for 2 nights. This economic injection will be good for any area where this event, or one like it, occurs.
The future of Skyline Scotland is certain, it will continue, but where will it be? The positives are there are new routes coming and as the race director promised, they will be worth it.
Find out more about the Salomon Skyline Scotland
Shane Ohly, CEO of Ourea Events and Race Director of Salomon Skyline Scotland. Image credit: ©No Limits Photography
Official photos used with the kind permission of Shane Ohly.