With the Winter Olympics coming to Beijing in 2022, skiing facilities in the region are receiving substantial investment and development. So there’s never been a better time to take your family out onto the slopes. But even if you’re an experienced skier, taking children can be a challenge. And if you’re used to the slopes of the Alps or the Rockies, then Beijing’s resorts, with their crowds and artificial snow, can come as a shock.
For some informed advice we talked to Charlotte Friis Lodahl, a Danish freelancer. Friis Lodahl has been in Beijing for 12 years, and regularly skis with husband Jesper, a company director, and daughters, Laura Justine (9 years old), a student at Harrow International School, and Asta (7), who attends House of Knowledge.
What, we asked, are the particular challenges of skiing in China?
“It very much depends on where you go,” Friis Lodahl told us. “I think safety is a big issue. A lot of beginners go on the slopes without any lessons, and therefore don’t know how to control the ski and don’t know the basic traffic rules on the slopes.”
(Perhaps the most important rule, and the one most flouted on Chinese pistes, is that it’s the responsibility of the skier upslope to look out, and go safely around, people below them.)
“For foreigners in particular,” she added, “language can also be a challenge – though the newer resorts near Wanlong also have English speaking instructors.
What advice would you give to a family skiing together for the first time?
“If you go skiing during public holidays, all places are quite crowded, which makes it a bit more challenging to enjoy. So try to go outside holiday periods at first, to get a feel for it. If your kids have never been skiing before, start with an instructor that can give them a lesson on basic skiing skills.
“If you don’t have your own gear, you want to make sure that the bindings are correctly set for your weight, height and experience level – particularly for the kids. If the bindings are too tight the ski won’t come off when you fall and you can break your leg!
“Make sure you check the marking of the slopes. Green is for beginners and is recommended if you haven’t tried skiing before.”
Families should remember a good helmet and snow glasses, she told us. “Choosing the right lenses can be a science in itself. Personally I prefer yellow with mirror reflection, but the fit is really important too.
“Don’t forget warm clothing – it is not the Alps! It gets really cold.”
(Layers provide good insulation, and also allow you to adjust if your children get too hot or cold.)
“And something to eat. You can often buy food, but it is the usual instant noodles. In some cases you can get chuanr; but to be on the safe side, bring good snacks for the kids.”
Where to go:
Best for Beginners
“Yunding. It’s relatively new with great facilities and beginner friendly. It has quite a few different slopes both challenging and wide and easy ones. Our kids love it there!”
Opens for the season: November 5, 2016
Prices vary from RMB 400 for an off peak four hour lift pass to RMB 1,150 for two days during public holidays. RMB 300 for equipment rental. 400 168 1234, www.secretgardenresorts.com
Genting or Yunding?
Genting Secret Garden takes its name from a mountain resort in Malaysia. The company which developed it expanded to open resorts and casinos all over the world. Their Chinese name is Yun Ding (云顶yúndǐng, meaning Cloud Top). But it’s the same place!
Thaiwoo Ski Resort only opened last winter, but with 18km of trails, a 500m drop, and pistes to suit skiers of all abilities, it might become the new all-round favorite.
Opens for the season:Beginning of November, depending on weather. Call the number below for more information.
Prices: RMB 320 four hours, Monday-Friday, RMB 420 four hours Saturday-Sunday, and on holidays RMB 520. Additional equipment charges. RMB 1600 for two days during the holidays with equipment. 400 601 3300, thaiwoo.com
Getting to the “Chongli Cluster”:
Wanlong, Yunding and Thaiwoo, together with the smaller Duolemeidi, make up the “Chongli cluster”. Wanlong and Yunding are very close together, and you can ski from one area to the other, but be aware that the lift passes are not interchangeable.
If you’re driving, take the G6 Expressway at Beijing Jianxiangqiao as far as the Chongli South Exit, and keep going until you reach the resorts.
Genting runs a shuttle bus which departs from Guomao at 7am, with stops at Huixinjie Station (south exit) and Jiandemen Station, and returns at 4pm. The bus takes about four and a half hours.
Or take the bus to Chongli, if you have the patience for a long journey, or the train to Zhangjiakou, from where a cab to the resorts will cost about RMB 200.
Best for Experienced Skiers
“Wanlong has long and challenging slopes. Most skiers there are experienced.”
Opens for the season: Beginning of November, depending on weather. Call the number below for more information.
Prices: RMB 420 for four hours. RMB 590 for equipment. RMB 590 one-day pass (RMB 850 with equipment), RMB 900 two day pass (RMB 1310 with equipment). Book viaWeChat for a 15 percent discount. 400 6822 999, wlski.com
For an Inexpensive Day Trip
“Nanshan can be very crowded: too many people that don’t know how to ski and just go as fast as possible down the hills, without knowing rules and how to stop. But if you are skilled and can navigate around the crazy people who have never skied before – then it’s a quick day trip from Beijing and gives you a good break away from the city.”
Opens for the season: December 1 as of presstime, though it may open earlier depending on the weather (call the number below to confirm).
Prices: RMB 165 for four hours Monday-Friday.RMB 255 for four hours Saturday-Sunday and holidays.RMB 185-295 for full day pass. Includes equipment and insurance. 8909 3301, 8909 3302, nanshanski.com
Getting to Nanshan:
By car, take the Jingchengexpress way to the No.16 Miyun Downtown Exit, then go straight and follow the signs to Nanshan Ski Village. Alternatively, take the airport express south line, then the Jingping Express to Muyan road exit. Turn left at the exit to Muyan road, and take Henanzhai Crossroad. Turn right at the signpost.
Shuttle buses depart every day at 8:30am from three stops (Sanyuan Bridge, Shaoyaoju subway station and Wudaokou subway station). Return fares are RMB 45 per person, and you need to book one day in advance by calling 8909 1909.
The public bus is number 980 from Dongzhimen; get off at West Bridge (RMB 14). A taxi from there to Nanshan will cost about RMB 25.
This article originally appeared on pages 24-25 of the November/ December issue of beijingkids magazine. Click here for your free online copy. To find out how you can obtain a hard copy, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTOS: COURTESY OF WANLONG, YUNDING, NANSHAN