Like many of us, you may be wondering: How on earth was Beijing chosen for the Winter Olympics? It doesn’t even snow here! Can you even ski in Beijing? Well actually yes you can, right this very second if you want to.
You see there’s actually already a large indoor snow dome right here in Shunyi, where you can go skiing any day of the year. With the temperature kept at a rather pleasant -1 Celsius it makes both a nice escape from the summer heat and a good place to practice for the winter to come. With beginner to advanced slopes and even a snow park to hone your tricks in, it has enough to keep everyone entertained.
Of course a big refrigerator is all very well, but isn’t skiing supposed to take place on, y’know, actual mountains? Where might those be? Again, right on your doorstep. Beijing is surrounded by almost as many ski resorts as there are mountains and many of them are just an hour away from downtown. Perhaps the best known is Nanshan Ski Centre in Miyun District, with its 12 ski runs for those who are still learning the basics and want a smooth progression up the skiing ladder.
Jundushan over in Changping, which has one seriously challenging runwith a 40 degree pitchaimed squarely at experts. Huaibei Resort in Huairou is famous for being nestled right beside the Great Wall, and one of the chosen destinations for ski tour organizers such as imagine-china.com. These are just three of the most established skiing opportunities, but more are opening up every time winter comes around! Don’t worry about the lack of natural snowfall either. Resorts compensate for this like they do indoors by using state of the art snow machines to ensure there is no shortage of the white stuff.
That’s Beijing, but where are the Olympic skiing events going to happen? Could you really create an Olympic standard mountain here to suit all the Games’ needs? OK you’ve got me there, not all the skiing events are going to take place in Beijing – they will be shared with Zhangjiakou in Hebei Province, 160km North East. Not that that is a bad thing. It might seem like a bit of a trek,but the government has given the go ahead to start building a new high-speed train line from Beijing to Zhangjiakou, which when finished will whisk you there in only 45 minutes. I’m willing to bet most people’s morning commute takes longer than that.
Like in Beijing, Zhangjiakou’s multiple ski hills lie in the outskirts of the city, with the Nordic and Freestyle events taking place in Chongli County. Some resorts such as Wanlong, currently one of the biggest resorts in China but with a whole new ski area opening last season alone, have been around for a many years now. This is also where some of the Olympic snowboarding events will take place but it will share that privilege with Taiwu, a brand new resort that is scheduled to open this coming season and is promising up to 78 hectares of skiable terrain.
The Luge and Alpine Skiing events are scheduled to take place in Yanqing County close to the North West border with Hebei Province and about half way to Zhangjiakou. The Downhill event is planned to take place on one of the highest mountains within the borders of Beijing starting at 2190 meters going down to 1360 meters at the finish point. Because unlike in, say, Kitzbuhel in Austria, which has an established ski racing scene, the downhill run or resort doesn’t actually exist yet – it will have to be built from scratch. A lot of work perhaps but they have 6 and a half years to get it ready, andif the last Olympics are anything to go by, I think we can trust in China’s ability to deliver on wildly ambitious, multi-billion dollar promises.
So really the question you should be asking yourself isn’t, “can I ski in Beijing?” but more “when can I start?”
About the Author
Ben La Brooy is a Canadian-trained ski instructor working for Imagine., who provide English-speaking, qualified ski instructors for people curious to experience Beijing’s ski life. You can find out more at www.imagine-china.com or email Ben@imagine-china.com any time.
Photo: Courtesy of Imagine.