Reader Reports is a new series where That’s readers share worthwhile stories of their time in the Middle Kingdom.
With all the drama around the “will they, won’t they” of hosting the Tokyo Olympics, it is quietly slipping under the radar that the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics is in just over a year. Beijing is actually set to be the first city to host both the Winter and Summer Games.
The primary site for snow sports is a Hebei province district called Chongli, just one hour northwest of Beijing (take the train to Taizicheng).
I was initially skeptical when a friend invited me to check it out, having always heard skiing/snowboarding near Beijing was both crowded and had a distinct lack of a critically important ingredient – ‘snow’. But, after watching a couple of Douyin videos showing an actual mountain with snow on it, I swapped my plans of doing absolutely nothing and tagged along.
... to parks, the whole Chongli district is getting ready!
We spent three days at a resort called Yunding (for some reason called Genting in English). It has a mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs. Overall, the slope quality was much higher than I expected, and everything is really well connected with recently completed lifts. A personal favorite was Moon Chaser, a really nice intermediate run that went from the top all the way to the main resort hub.
Not a bad view for a place with “no snow” – top of the slope at the Ji Hua Pavilion.
Taking a break on the Moon Chaser – an intermediate run.
The resort is best suited for intermediate skiers/boarders. This is for two reasons. At one end of the spectrum, skiing is still quite new to China, so there are a lot more beginners than other levels. This means the beginner slopes are by far the busiest.
My friend – who was a beginner – had to do a lot of navigating around kids on school trips. My advice for beginners is to learn the basics at an indoor place so that when you are on the mountain you can avoid these more crowded areas.
Nick had never snowboarded before, but we took him up the chair lift to escape beginners.
At the other end, there is no off-piste. Most advanced boarders and skiers I know spend very little time on the actual slopes, preferring to carve their own routes in the powder. A lot of the snow here is from snow cannons, and all the focus is on making the slopes nice. There are also fences all along the slopes stopping people from making their own routes.
One afternoon, I was feeling cheeky and tried to carve my path before being shouted at by snow bao’an. If you are the type of person that finds on-piste boring, then this place is not for you. One nice thing was that the advanced routes are basically empty, so you are able to get some real speed without the risk of finding out whether your health insurance covers snow sports.
The red fences on both sides of the slopes and snow bao’an keep you from going off-piste.
Snow sports are expensive wherever you go. They have expensive ‘Ski Out’ hotel rooms, which are also often sold out. Buying stuff on the site itself is also not cheap; renting the gear is RMB280 a day, and the pass is RMB269-399, depending on if it is a weekend or not. There are, however, enough cheap places by the resort to eat and drink, including a KFC (we went twice).
Fortunately, there are more budget-friendly alternatives for rentals and accommodation. After getting screwed on the first day, we rented our gear from a shop in the city for RMB80 each for two days. We also stayed in the city at a place called Rongchen.
Obviously, it is not as convenient as being able to wake up and ski out your front door, but getting to the resort only takes 30 minutes by taxi.
We're not sure what made us happier, KFC...
... or the new trend of stuffed animal ski protection.
The city itself has lots of great restaurants, including the spectacularly named Bad Ass Lamb Hot Pot.
Bad Ass Lamb Hot Pot was...
... ‘bad ass’.
Overall, considering our very low expectations I was very pleasantly surprised. Given the rise of a new strain of COVID, you could do a lot worse if you need your snow fix this winter but don’t fancy leaving China.
One final tip would be to go during the week if you can because it is much less crowded. We boarded Monday through Wednesday and that was more than enough time. All the staff told us it was rammed on the weekends. You can also stay up-to-date on what is open with Yunding Resort’s WeChat Mini Program.
[All images by Aron Solomons for That’s]