When it was announced that Beijing would be the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics in July 2015, many ski enthusiasts wondered whether China had what it takes to pull it off.
As it transpired, the forthcoming Winter Olympics not only motivated local authorities to promote snow sports all across the country, but also encouraged the locals to hit the slopes.
As a result, skiing tourism has boomed during the last couple of years in the area.
The 2019 Skiing Season
According to recently announced official numbers, the last skiing season in China was without a doubt the most successful so far.
Certain resorts in the Chongli district sold more than a million lift passes – 1.07 million to be exact. The passes were sold in little more than three months – an unprecedented record across China and possibly the Far East as a whole.
Chongli is home to no less than seven winter sports resorts and has been one of China’s most developed tourist areas, attracting thousands of skiers, mainly from Asia. Boasting excellent infrastructure and a stunning landscape, it is the primary hosting location for the forthcoming Winter Games.
In recent years, Chinese authorities have implemented plans to upgrade and promote ski tourism, in a consistent effort to boost the prospects for more medals from Chinese athletes.
This has also helped to get locals acquainted with winter sports and further develop the industry in the country.
According to official statements by the Chinese government, 300 million new skiers and snowboarders are expected to visits China’s slopes within the next three years – surely an optimistic but not unrealistic number in this part of the world.
If this estimation comes true, China will be by then the biggest skiing nation across the globe. Quite some target!
Ski Tourism in China
Chongli has risen as the new strong player on the world ski scene, even though the first ski resort in the area opened just twenty years ago.
Initially visitors numbered no more than a few thousand, but persistent efforts to improve infrastructure, keep low prices and promote the resorts online, has borne fruit.
Online transactions relating to ski holidays (including ski tickets, ski classes, winter camps and hotels bookings) totalled 27.3 million yuan in China in 2016, more than 5 times in 2015, (source: https://www.chinainternetwatch.com/19874/china-ski-snowport-2016)
After accommodating more than a million skiers in 2019, Chongli claims one of the most impressive developments in the industry in the last 50 years.
All seven resorts of the Chongli district encompass 169 pistes, stretching for more than 160 km. These are currently served by 67 lifts, a number that will probably rise in time for the Winter Olympics.
Aside from more than sixty local and international skiing and snowboarding competitions, the Chongli resorts have already hosted thirteen International Ski Federation events, such as the famed snowboard halfpipe World Cup and the ski moguls World Cup.
The undoubted success of the events further promoted the region’s international skiing profile.
Reactions from the industry
The booming rise of the Chongli resorts convinced holiday operators and world-famed ski schools to take the area seriously
In January 2019 Club Med, the renowned all-inclusive holiday operator, and Ecole du Ski Francais have decided to join forces and open a ski school in China.
Steps have also been taken in training locals as skiing and snowboarding instructors. The China Ski Academy, for instance, with the support of Club Med and ESF, is by now the most sophisticated winter sports instructor school in China.
Such moves in a country where winter sports have just crept into the local culture are very important.
According to research, only two out of ten first-time skiers in China are willing to try skiing or snowboarding again, mostly because they think them a bit too dangerous for them and their children.
Authorities believe that poor instruction is the root cause behind this attitude, and thus promote the operation of foreign powered Ski Academies in several parts of the country.
One example is the Warren Smith Ski Academy, which opened the first British-run ski school in the country a couple of years ago in Wanlong, one of the most prominent resorts in the Chongli district.
Plans & Infrastructure Upgrades
Needless to say that both the authorities and ski resorts already make plans for further upgrades in existing infrastructure.
A few months after the announcement about the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission spoke of plans worth around £169 billion, involving the construction of hundreds of new ski resorts.
In September 2018, it was officially announced that the world’s largest indoor ski resort will be built in Shanghai, dwarfing the Harbin Wanda Indoor Ski and Winter Sports Resort that currently holds the title.
The new location will cover more than 225,000 square metres, 90,000 of which are dedicated to its main run.
Future plans in the area include a state-of-the-art training centre, used during the summer by the Chinese snowboarding team.
Another prime example is the Yunmen mountain resort, which first operated last summer and covers more than 7,000 square metres.
The resorts are mostly designed to appeal to beginners and families, but this means that a fairly great number of them will soon seek more challenging runs, both in China and abroad.
China is surely destined to emerge as a true contender to European and American skiing resorts in the next fifteen years.