Skiing in China

When Beijing secured the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, encouraged the populace to embrace winter sports enthusiastically. This led to the construction of new resorts. The government claims that around 300 million Chinese citizens (from a population of 1.4 billion) have participated in winter sports since 2015. Although this figure may be exaggerated, the campaign appears to resonate more with middle-class Chinese than other more ideologically driven initiatives.

“If sports are strong, a nation is strong,” Xi Jinping has stated. China secured just one gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics, but this number rose to nine in 2022. Part of this success was due to the naturalization of foreign athletes, such as Eileen Gu, an American-born freestyle skier who chose to compete for China and became a prominent figure during the Beijing games. She won two gold medals at the Olympics and another victory at the Freestyle Skiing World Cup in December, held in China.

However, the government’s push for winter sports extends beyond medal acquisition. China’s latest five-year plan includes targets for increased participation in sports and physical exercise, aiming primarily to enhance public fitness. In 2020, the National Health Commission reported that about half of China’s population is overweight. Additionally, the state hopes to encourage Chinese holidaymakers to spend their money on domestic activities, like skiing.

Most Chinese skiers are beginners, so there are few complaints about the country’s ski destinations, which typically feature small slopes with gentle inclines. The largest Chinese resorts are comparable to small European ones. At Mission Hills, more space is dedicated to photo opportunities and arcade games than to skiing. However, those who conquer its simple run can anticipate the opening of the world’s largest indoor ski center in Shenzhen in 2025.

For now, Chinese skiers seeking more challenging terrain might look to Xinjiang in the northwest, with its high mountains and lengthy winters. Xinjiang boasts 64 ski resorts, nearly 10% of China’s total. According to Xinhua, the state news agency, visitors to the skiing haven of Altay increased six-fold over the five years leading up to 2022. While this tourism surge boosts the local economy, it also diverts attention from the human rights abuses that the government has perpetrated in Xinjiang over the past decade.

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Which are the most expensive resorts in Europe?


    Which are the most expensive ski resorts in Europe? A recent survey, published at Statista rated the following the most expensive (prices given are average price per day in Euros):

    • Cortina d’Ampezzo (Italy) 258
    • Obergurgl-Hochgurgl (Austria) 254
    • Zermatt (Switzerland) 250
    • Hintertux Glacier (Austria) 224
    • Gitschberg Jochtal (Italy) 221
    • Madonna di Campiglio (Italy) 217 3
    • Zinnen Dolomites (Italy) 211
    • Val Gardena (Italy) 202
    • Verbier/La Tzoumaz (Switzerland) 197
    • Kitzbühel/Kirchberg/Kitzski (Austria) 197
    • Saas-Fee (Switzerland) 192
    • Arosa-Lenzerheide (Switzerland) 191
    • St. Moritz – Corviglia (Switzerland) 188
    • Ischgl (Austria) 187
    • Serfaus-Fiss-Ladis (Austria) 187
    • Obertauern (Austria) 186
    • Kühtai (Austria) 185
    • Samnaun (Switzerland) 182
    • Parsenn-Davos-Klosters (Switzerland) 181
    • Obersaxenmundaunval-Lumnezia (Switzerland) 177
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    Ski Industry Analysis

    There’s a Swiss guy called Laurent Vanat who does comprehensive analysis of ski industry trends every year. The data from 2021/2 is illuminating:

    Ski Numbers have bounced back from the Pandemic

    The Bounce-back is most pronounced in the USA

    The USA has by far the most expensive lift passes

    The Industry is concentrating

    Small resorts make up 87% of resorts but only 26% of attendances.

    The previous year report is available here.

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    The end of winter sports as we know them?

    A paper in “Nature Climate Change” explores the impact of climate change on European ski tourism and concludes that, without snowmaking, 53% and 98% of the 2,234 ski resorts studied in 28 European countries are projected to be at very high risk for snow supply under global warming of 2 °C and 4 °C, respectively. Assuming a snowmaking fractional coverage of 50% leads to corresponding proportions of 27% and 71%, but with increasing water and electricity demand (and related carbon footprint) of snowmaking.

    The implications for many Alpine communities is quite stark. Summer tourism will become more critical to their sustainability. Typically many close down for visitors in Spring and Autumn, but the loss of a winter season may make many choose to try and extend their Summer season.

    For skiers and snowboarders, this will mean that higher resorts will attract more visitors, but presumably this will drive up prices. And it will hardly contribute to reducing the carbon footprint.

    In truth the golden age of ski package holidays has gone. Fewer people make this choice for their winter holidays and the demographic of those who do is aging.

    Back in the early days of winter sports tourism, people took the train to the Alps and, without lifts and pistes, would walk up the mountains and ski down through unprepared snow.

    In an age of climate change, it is likely that the future of skiing will lie with ski touring and ski mountaineering. If this is your bag, or you have an interest, I recommend you consider joining the Eagle Ski Club, a UK-based club whose members are devoted to these sports and provide the means to begin participating in them.

    And remember to take the train! There is a list of Alpine resorts with railway stations: at the Snow and Rail website.

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