At the time of this article’s writing in mid-January, Beijing had yet to receive its first bout of snow. Luckily, families can escape to a winter resort to ski and snowboard on man-made runs. Non-skiers can join the fun too, with activities like sleighing, tubing, hiking, or simply kicking back at the lodge.
The capital is not short on places to ski, but there is a more serious destination about 200km northwest of Beijing in Chongli, a county in Hebei Province trying to establish itself as the “Davos of China” in reference to the famous ski resort in the Swiss Alps.
Also nicknamed the “Backyard of Beijing,” Chongli’s average temperature is about 7°C lower than in the capital. The area’s heavy snowfall and better snow quality make the county a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders.
Spanning 3,000sqkm, Genting Resort Secret Garden is the newest addition to the ski market in Chongli. Opened in late 2012, the
mega-complex encompasses a five-star hotel, a restaurant and bar, and more than 30 trails on a mountain with a 2,500m peak. Activities include sightseeing, skiing, and snowboarding for children and adults of all skill levels.
The resort is built at the bottom of the mountain and many of the hotel rooms have a view of the ski runs. The standard accomodation is a four-person family room (starting from RMB 658 per night) with a king-size bed, a bunk bed, an open kitchen, and two toilets.
There is a children’s slope with a wide and smooth run serviced by a magic carpet lift for kids and beginners who need skiing or
snowboarding lessons. English-speaking instructors can be booked through the resort. The ski center rents out Salomon and Volkl ski equipment, ski suits, helmets, sleds, and accessories.
Non-skiers can buy a one-time sightseeing ticket (RMB 60) to take the cable car, while veteran skiers and snowboarders can take on the maximum drop of 345m and maximum angle of 24° on the advanced runs. A ski lodge can be found at the peak of the mountain in which visitors can rest or enjoy a hot drink. There are two ways to get up the mountain: using chair lifts with a retractable cover to protect from biting winds or four-person cable cars.
In the evening, guests can keep entertained with pool tables,
foosball, an indoor swimming pool, and a bar. There is also a kids’ play area and a toy store with candy for sale.
Recently, a number of beijingkids editors had the opportunity to stay overnight at Genting Resort Secret Garden. Here is our take on the ski runs, facilities, service, and accommodations.
Very helpful staff. On a couple of occasions, my skiing companion dropped her things (such as a ski pass and a ski pole) and they were very quick to chase us to return them.
Service was efficient and personable. Although most employees did not speak English, there were sufficient English-speaking team members available at each location (reception, restaurants, ski school, etc.) to help.
There is room for improvement, as most of the staff does not speak English and it takes time to get assistance. The front desk staff offers service with a smile, but the rental ski staff is in need of a refresher course on customer service.
Apparently, having a UK size 7 shoe size falls into the ‘big feet’ department and I had to wear men’s ski boots for snowboarding. The physics of having a heavier snowboard and not enough body mass to lift, twist, turn and stop the board ensured gravity had the upper hand throughout my snowboarding experience.
Given that there was no natural snowfall I thought the snow coverage was really good. It got a little icy towards the end of the day (especially in the shade), but for the most part I thought the pistes were decent.
There was lots of space to move, which is especially good for snowboarders as we love making long curves across the piste to the displeasure of skiers. There were, however, some arrogant types with lots of expensive equipment (but no skill) cutting across everybody.
There are a variety of runs, so the advanced skier or snowboarder has options. There is definitely enough variety to spend a couple of days at the resort and not feel as though you’re doing the same routes over and over again. The black runs were challenging but not too busy, so there was some space for error.
At the top of the mountain, it’s easy to accidentally ski into the nearby Wanlong Resort. However, your passes will not work on their chair lifts and you’ll need to fork out extra renminbi to make it back to Genting. So pay close attention to trail markers!
It could be very cold and windy on the chair lifts, so it was a relief to have the option of a cable car.
The addition of hot springs would be nice.
The resort should open the spa as soon as possible, because many of us were desperate for a massage after taking a tumble (or two) on the slopes.
Be sure to note your locker number at the ski center. The lockers use a system in which you have to insert a card into a slot at the back of the door to activate the locking mechanism, like getting power in a hotel room. However, many of the lockers didn’t work properly and I had to switch three times. The staff forgot to enter my locker number in the computer system for the last change, which means I had no idea where my locker was once I returned from snowboarding.
Although the resort wasn’t completed when we visited, the areas that were finished such as the rooms and common areas were warm enough to keep the biting cold at bay.
The rooms were spacious and well-maintained. We had two toilets! There’s a floor reserved for smokers, so families don’t have to worry about secondhand smoke.
Many of the hotel rooms come with bunk beds, which makes them very family-friendly.
Family rooms are spacious and well-equipped, easily sleeping four adults. The hotel is warm and cozy despite frigid outside temperatures.
The beds were the best part; my painful tailbone had a cushy surface to rest on for the night. The duvet was cozy, heavy, and warm.
Genting Resort Secret Garden 密苑云顶乐园
Daily 8am-4pm. Chongli County, Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province (400 1681 234, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.secretgardenresorts.com 河北省张家口市崇礼县四台嘴乡梧桐大道
Room prices: Starting from RMB 658 per night
Ski prices: Day pass (does not include equipment rental): RMB 288 per person (Mon-Fri), RMB 380 (Sat-Sun), RMB 588 (holidays). Equipment rental: RMB 218 (Mon-Fri), RMB 280 (Sat-Sun), RMB 420 (holidays). Free for kids under 1.2m and half price for kids under 1.4m.
Getting there: A daily shuttle bus is available between Beijing and the resort. The bus leaves Guomao (国贸) at 7:30am, stops in Sanyuanqiao (三元桥) at 7:50am, and reaches the resort at 11am. There is also a night shuttle on Friday evenings. The bus leaves the resort for Beijing at 4pm daily.
photos courtesy of Genting
This article originally appeared on p34-37 of the beijingkids February 2014 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com