Experience Beijing’s first and only indoor ski resort
Ski season: It’s coming. The freezing winds and low temperatures will soon force the water vapor in the high reaches of the atmosphere to freeze, condense and fall onto the rolling hills of Beijing’s ski resorts. The lifts will start running, and revelers will come in droves and queue up to take nosedives into mounds of soft, white, powdery snow. But before you dig those salopettes out of the closet and head for your nearest ski resort, it might be best to fine-tune your skills in a more controlled environment, and the perfect place to do so is Qiaobo Snow Dome.
Located 40km from the city center and 15km from the airport, Qiaobo Snow Dome is Beijing’s only indoor skiing environment. The gargantuan building takes its name from Ye Qiaobo, the 1993 world speed skating champion, but its activities are concerned exclusively with snow rather than ice. There’s a hefty RMB 1,500 deposit for your group, which can be paid with credit card, bankcard or cash. But if you’re lucky enough to be able to visit on a weekday, you can benefit both from a lack of competition for space on the slope and also a discount on the hourly rate. It’s RMB 180 for two hours on a weekday and RMB 230 on the weekend, but this doesn’t include clothing rental. The time you spend on the slope is tracked by an electronic card which you scan as you enter and leave.
As well as providing ski, snowboard and boot rental, Qiaobo also offers ski pants and jackets for hire (RMB 30 for both), an option definitely worth considering because of the high quality and warmth they provide. Be sure not to waste too much time in the changing rooms because the clock only stops when you return to the reception area. The skis, boards and boots are all in great condition and come from well-known brands like Burton. Make sure all equipment fits comfortably, as oversized boots can potentially cause injury. Remember to bring gloves and goggles because the bitterly cold temperatures inside the ski hall will make your eyes water and hands numb.
The 40,000-square-meter park is divided into four parts to separate the boarders trying to land 1080 nosebones off the ramps from little tykes more concerned with making snow angels. The Children’s Snow Paradise is a good spot for beginners to get to grips with the basics and become familiar with the equipment. The slope is 30m long and has a gentle 3-degree gradient, so there’s little risk of picking up enough speed to cause real damage. Instruction can be provided at an extra cost from the affiliated training school. English-speaking instructors provide private lessons for RMB 150 per hour and kids as young as 3 are welcome to participate. Those who deem “paradise” a little tame for their needs can traverse across to the beginner run. A conveyer belt takes you up the slope and you can either hop off halfway at the 200-meter mark or brave it to the top, which passes a small jump for those wanting to catch some air. The 300-meter advanced run, with its 17-degree slope and jumps, will entertain advanced riders.
Skiing and snowboarding utilizes muscles rarely used in day-to-day activities, so to avoid cramping up, be sure to stretch beforehand and have kids take regular breaks by sitting down on the benches provided. It’s best to supervise younger and more inexperienced children, as the location of some of the jumps on the slope might be hard to avoid if they pick up speed. Wearing plenty of layers of clothing serves as makeshift safety equipment, but it might be worth investing in padding or a helmet if your child develops a keen interest. The complex also houses two stores with a decent selection of boards, skis, safety equipment and clothing.
The French Alps it certainly is not, but Qiaobo offers year-round snow and is a perfect place for beginners to get their first taste of skiing and snowboarding.