...plus 10 other ski centres that share the mountain with a Radar Station
The prominent golf-ball like structure on the summit of Lowther Hill is one of the first things most people notice when they visit Leadhills and Wanlockhead.
Lowther Hill is the site of a radar station used by NATS (National Air Traffic Services). Together with the transmitter masts and antennae on Green Lowther and Green Trough, they form the largest communication site in the south of Scotland.
The radar is known locally as "The Golf Ball" due to the radome that protects the large rotating radar dish from wind and ice, and which sits on a tee-like concrete structure.
Located right by the Southern Upland Way and only 150 metres from the top of the ski slopes, the Golf Ball often appears in our photos and videos of skiing on Lowther Hill.
Ross Dolder's photo of Tim Mullens snowboarding was one of our most popular pictures of the 2014/15 season.
This photo of the slopes and the Golf Ball made it to OnTheSnow Magazine's World Snow Report on March 2015
But Lowther Hill is not the only place in the world where radar facilities coexist with outdoor recreation.
So, we decided to show you a few other ski areas around the world which also have their own Golf Ball:
1. The closest to Lowther HillOur closest one is Grand Ballon, on the highest mountain of the Alsace French region, at 694 miles from Lowther Hill as the crow flies. It's a small ski centre with 5 drag lifts which shares the mountain with the important Precision Approach Radar station for Strasbourg (the city of Strasbourg is the seat of several European institutions such as the Council of Europe and the European Parliament.)
2. The second closest to Lowther HillThe second closest ski resort with a Golf Ball is Chalmazel, in France's Massif Central, at about 748 miles from Lowther Hill. The skiing facilities (1 chairlift and 7 drag lifts) reach all the way to the high security Pierre-sur-Haute military radio station. The facility is supplied with chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear defences. If French nuclear weapons were used, the fire order would pass through Pierre-sur-Haute's station.
3. The third closest to Lowther Hill
Almost at about the same distance from Lowther Hill as the crow flies (754 miles) is La Dôle, in the Switzerland's Jura region. You can literally ski right up to the radar facilities, which have an aviation radar, a Swiss weather station, television, radio and EBU telecommunications.
4. Europe's northernmost Golf Ball
We wondered if Lowther Hills would be Europe's northernmost ski centre with a radar station, but Sweden's Måttsundsbacken near the Arctic Circle clearly beats us to it.
5. Europe's westernmost Golf Ball
Then we thought Lowther Hills could be Europe's westernmost ski centre with a radome, but Portugal's Serra da Estrela at 7° 36' 49'' W takes the honours.
6. Europe's second westernmost Golf Ball
Although we could always argue that Serra da Estrela's military radar base is no longer operational. In that case Lowther Hill (3° 45' 10'' W) would narrowly beat Spain's Lunada (3° 38' 55'' W) as Europe's westernmost ski area with a radar station!
7. Europe's easternmost Golf Ball?
Serbia's Kopaonik, is one of south and eastern Europe's largest ski resorts with 25 ski lifts. The mountain's strategic military radar station controls the whole of the Balkans and was constantly under the threat of attack during the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. But at just 20.8263° E, Kopaonik falls short of being Europe's easternmost ski area with a radar station.
8. Europe's easternmost and southernmost Golf Ball
Actually, Europe's both easternmost and southernmost ski area with a radar dome is at Troodos (34.9220° N, 32.8794° E) in the isle of Cyprus. Also known as Mount Olympus, the facilities are part of a military spy base that intercepts satellite communications and acts as a listening post for radio signals from the near Middle East.
9. A Golf Ball across the Atlantic
There are many other radar facilities outside Europe that share the mountain with ski centres. In Oregon, USA, Mount Ashland also has their own golf ball. Like Lowther Hills, Mt. Ashland is a community-focused ski area that is owned and operated by a non-profit organisation. But unlike Lowther Hills, community-owned Mt Ashland has 4 chairlifts!
10. The world's most exotic Golf Ball
And we end this non-exhaustive list of skiing and radar radomes with an exotic one you may have never heard of: Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Up until a few years ago, Hawaii Ski Club members used to take turns picking fellow skiers at the bottom of the runs and ferrying them up by car to the summit. Just like on Lowther Hill in the 60's and 80's!
The Lowther Hills Ski Club is run entirely by volunteers. The Club holds work parties to maintain our equipment and run the ski tows. If you would be willing to give us a hand at any work meets please get in touch.