Getting to a national craze
Chinese ski resorts have been buzzing since the official announcement: the Winter Olympics 2022 are being organized by Beijing, and the government intends to grab as many medals as possible for national glory. The new target : to fill the ski resorts with 300 million members so that China honourably represents winter sports. An opportunity for the ski branding.
All spotlights will focus on the exhilaration of Thaiwoo, built in a quick time in Chongli District to host the freestyle, jumping and skiing competitions. This investment of 20 billion Yuan allows the Hebei region, massively industrialized but still very rural and poor economically, to develop itself by varying its activities. Despite extreme winter temperatures in this region, the absence of snow forces the use of artificial snow cannons.
Skiing is a social challenge
Like horse riding and golf, skiing in China is representative of a higher social status. Chinese do practise winter sports both the pleasure of the activity and to attend an activity typical from high-society. Skiing became a collective and rewarding social activity just like shopping, for the proud of wearing well-known brand’s clothes with logo that will for sure raise the admiration and envy of those around.
Certainly the clean mountain air allows city dwellers to avoid the pollution of large cities and offers a welcome renewal, a delivery that loads of parents expect for their children, now caring much more about the mountain air benefits for their lungs than from an eventual sport accident.
Where European and Chinese practices come together, skiing remains a family activity and the Swiss imitation chalets from Thaiwoo station are designed to welcome three generations under the same roof. Skiing is the experience to be accomplished less than once … the time of taking photos, before returning to the warm hotel room and share this moment on Wechat.
Chinese consumers feels quickly tired
Surprising as it may be, most ski fellows will only ski once, sometimes on a single day. Stations do not yet make their turnover on regular practitioners, as their location being quite far from major cities and the overall cost of the activity very expensive even for the urban citizens. Most new practitioners are convinced that a one-off lesson is enough for their life experience.
Besides, Chinese day-trippers do not want to spend the whole day on the slopes. Once they slide, they enjoy the other activities of the resort: hot spring and baths, spa, ice rink and shopping, not to mention the restaurants of Savoyard and Austrian cooked by expatriates who reinforce the myth.
Experienced foreigner instructors recruited abroad are orienting Chinese tourists towards snowboarding, which is more accessible than a very technical sport like skiing, which requires intensive learning before getting some results.
Statement of the ski industry in China
The marker equipment. As in many areas, China still lacks expertise and must rely on skills transfers for former national instructors, but also its lift mechanics, station operators and track preparers.
To equip its stations, it uses several prominent foreign suppliers, as is the case of the new Thaiwoo station: the snow guns are of the Italian brand Prinoth, the lifts of the French group Poma, the snowboards Elan of Slovenia, skis from Austria with the Fischer group and snow groomers from the American group SMI Snowmakers. A TGV line is currently under construction to reach Chongli from Beijing railway station in less than an hour, a real opportunity for this former disadvantaged province. Unsurprisingly, Thaiwoo has already been chosen as the “Best Station in China 2016”, a distinction that goes in the desired direction.
Where could we go skiing in China ?
Before the creation of Thaiwoo, Chinese skiers used to go to Yabuli Station, the oldest and longest-running Chinese ski slope in the vicinity of the big northern city of Harbin, which is famous for its winter ice festival. Ski slopes were already developed near major Chinese cities such as Yinqixing indoor station in Shanghai, Xiking outdoor resort in Chengdu or Nanshan station near Beijing.
Since the big Chinese investments companies have seen a market to exploit in skiing and chose to invest in it , the development of winter sports has accelerated. China currently has 568 ski resorts and a dozen million skiers, the vast majority of whom are punctual members. Opened in 2017, the Harbin Wanda Ski Dome is the world’s largest 80,000m² indoor station, a gigantic project that further illustrates China’s Olympic ambitions.
If the government reaches its target of 300 million national skiers by 2022 by focusing winter sports on the competition, we must believe that all companies in the sector feel right to point now to China.
Partnerships go on with foreign companies
Many partnerships between stations and suppliers are already settle down, as is the case between Genting Resort Secret Garden resort of Chongli (for freestyle and ski events during the Olympic Games) and the Swiss ski area LAAX , located in the canton of Graubünden. The cooperation between Thaiwoo station and french Compagnie des Alpes has been strengthened. Similarly, Genting Resort Secret Garden whose gonna get transformed before the Olympic Games in Snowland A and Snowland B to distinguish the two competition areas, the French company MND has signed a contract of 110 million euros to build the station with its equipment .
Winter sports industry in China will need an attentive follow-up in the years to come.
Need the advice of an expert? Find more on our Website