Despite the fact that China’s ski resorts are still relatively unheard of among foreign tourists, the ex-pat community living there, especially Britains, Australians and Americans, have long since discovered that China not only has some decent ski slopes, but that the slopes are in fact a fun place to meet others and understand about Chinese culture.
Although Skiing and China may not be the first word association to come to mind, China’s ski industry is growing. Ten year’s ago it was estimated that 200 people in China had skied. Today over a million people are estimated to have skied at least once. Although skiing has in no ways reached the popularity levels in the West, more and more young Chinese, especially those in big cities and with high-income levels are taking up skiing. Having skied is becoming a symbol of a modern outlook for young urban people. Chinese business managers as far away as Fujian and Zhu Hai, not to mention Shanghai and Hong Kong, ski regularly.
The ski industry in China will continue to progress. Currently virtually all of the ski equipment is imported into the country. Yabuli has purchased over 700 complete sets of skis, boots, poles, ski clothing, etc. from Switzerland and promises to purchase an additional 2,200 sets in the years ahead. Other resorts are looking at similar purchases although often being more economical on price and quality. As China’s numbers of skiers grows, more incentive will exist for development of a ski equipment industry in China.
Yabuli will continue to maintain its lead as the premier resort. This is because the resorts geographical position and climate give it the best snow within relatively close distance to major population areas. The central and provincial government has continued to support infrastructure development in the region.
Prices in China are still reasonably cheap. A one-day adult lift pass at one of the more popular ski resorts in China costs around $US20.
The decent ski resorts in China can be tricky to get to, which means that tagging on a day’s skiing or boarding to a short break in one of the major centres just isn’t possible. If you say you want to go skiing or snowboarding in China, you’ve got to really mean it.
Getting to China’s largest ski resort (Yabuli) in Heilongjiang Province, for example, involves a 90 minute internal flight from Beijing, a two and a half hour train ride and a bus transfer.
There are more convenient ski resorts in China. Beijing Nanshan International Ski Slope and Resort is only an hour and a half’s drive from Beijing and even has an international-standard half-pipe. Just don’t expect to work up too much of a sweat. With its highest point just 600 metres (1,968 feet) above sea level, most of the runs are over pretty quickly.