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It all goes downhill from here

THE ski season in China begins in early November and lasts until early April. Nie Xin and Chen Ye wrap up where to head for in the country to discover the best snow action.

For active types who thrive on extreme pursuits, skiing is definitely the choice sport in winter.

Skiing has become increasingly popular among the Chinese in recent years with more professional skiing locations being built to satisfy eager skiers' demands.

Shanghai skiers have the Yinqixing Indoor Skiing Site in the suburban Minhang District, but it has been closed for maintenance since last September and isn't due to reopen until later this year.

But, don't fret. If you're craving to cruise across the white stuff, there are other places to go skiing in China, particularly in the colder northern areas.

Here are some destinations suitable for all skiers, from beginners to masters, and people who simply want some fun in the snow.

Yabuli Ski Site

Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province

Yabuli, in northeastern China's Heilongjiang Province, is a premium winter wonderland for a wide array of outdoor activities such as skiing, snowboarding and ice skating.

This town is situated 177km southeast of Harbin, the capital city of the province and home of the annual snow and ice festival.

Nestled in the heart of a national park, Yabuli has an excellent reputation as a winter sports destination.

It hosted the Winter Asian Games in 1996, China's National Winter Games in 2008 and the Winter Universaide in 2009.

Club Med, one of the world premier resorts, opened their first resort in China in Yabuli two months ago, upgrading the accommodation level of the town.

The ski site offers 18 ski runs including two green, 11 blue and five black, ideal for skiers of all abilities - with a vertical drop of about 530 meters.

People have easy, direct access to the slopes for a more enjoyable ski experience, with a host of top-class facilities there.

It has Asia's longest Alpine slide of 2.2km.

Certified coaches are available for group or private lessons. Skiers can reserve either the group ski classes or the private lessons with the professional coaches one day in advance.

The largest beginner teaching terrain in the country, it is serviced by a network of five "magic carpet" surface lifts that are easy for first timers and novice skiers.

A heated high-speed gondola can whisk eight passengers up the 530m vertical rise to the mountain top in only seven minutes. A rental fleet of ski equipment from industry leader Atomic skis, boots from Austria and high performance skis and snowboards are available.

Besides the exciting skiing, there are also plenty of fun non-ski activities, such as snowshoe walking, snow tubing, ice skating, an outdoor Canadian bath and spa treatments.

Yabuli is also renowned for its rich natural resources and wide variety of trees, plants, and, especially, mushrooms. Surrounded by imposing mountain ranges covered with pine forests, it was granted national park status in 1993.

Tips from the coach

The warm-up activities before skiing and other outdoor activities are very important in temperatures of about minus 30 degrees Celsius.

The best time for skiing is in daylight between 10am and 4pm. When the winds get too strong in the late afternoon it can become very dangerous and the snow can be too icy for skiers.

Yabuli folklore

Throughout the year, the leaves of five types of trees transform the mountain into a fairyland. The reds of maple, yellows of walnut, greens of elm, purples of plum and golds of oak are reminiscent of wild flowers earning the mountain its title "Five Flowers Mountain."

This otherworldly beauty was not lost on the dignitaries of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). During this period, only feudal lords could bask in the scenic grandeur of the Five Flowers Mountain, for Yabuli was their hunting ground.

The wide array of wildlife is still around and preserved today, and lucky travelers can catch a glimpse of bears, wild boars, deer and snow leopards. The Siberian Tiger Park near Harbin was built to protect one of these endangered species and serves to maintain the population of tigers.

Yabuli received its name in the late 19th century, when all land in Heilongjiang beyond the Amur and Ussuri rivers was given to the Russian Empire. "Yabuli" means "Apple Fields" in Russian.

If you go:

Address: Yabuli Town, Harbin

Transport: Take a train to Yabuli and then flag a taxi.

Open: November - mid April

Tickets: 120 yuan (US$18)/two hours, 200 yuan /half-day, 300 yuan/whole day on weekdays; 180 yuan/two hours, 270 yuan/half-day, 400 yuan/whole day on weekends.

Skiwear rental: 90 yuan

Tel: 4006-888-779

Website: (Chinese version only)

Where to stay: There are many resorts and hotels in Yabuli, and Club Med Village, opened last November, is the very first premium and international snow resort in China.

Wanlong Ski Resort

Zhangjiakou City, Hebei Province

Catering for skiers of any ability, this resort, 60km north of Zhangjiakou City, offers 22 runs covering more than 900,000 square meters.

There are two easy trails for beginners, four for medium-ability skiers and 16 expert runs.

Wanlong is one of the latest resorts to open in China and its highest spot has an altitude of 2,110m.

It has two two-person lifts that can carry up to 1,950 people per hour, and two four-person lifts that can carry 3,100 people per hour.

Professional coaches are available.

Atop the mountain of the ski resort there is a wood house made of wood imported from Finland.

A short break in the house sitting by the fireplace accompanied with wide choices of snacks and coffee will be a nice experience.

If you go:

Address: Honghualiang, Chongli County

Transport: Take a bus from Zhangjiakou to Chongli County and then flag a taxi. The cab ride costs around 10 yuan.

Open: November - March

Tickets: 240 yuan/four hours, 350 yuan/whole day, 530 yuan/two days

Website: (English/Chinese)

Qiaobo Ice & Snow World

Shaoxing City, Zhejiang Province

Established in October 2009, Qiaobo Ice & Snow World was set up by former speed-skiing world champion Ye Qiaobo. Located within the Keyan national tourist zone, the indoor resort has a total skiing area of around 40,000 square meters.

It has a 200m by 40m skiing path with an 8 percent slope for beginners and a 300m by 40m path with a 17 percent slope for medium-ability skiers.

There is also a skiing park specifically for children so they can safely have fun in the snow while their parents tackle more challenging slopes.

Professional coaches are available.

With a snow-making machine imported from Canada, the park maintains a half-meter-thick layer of snow all year round.

Apres-ski facilities include a sauna where weary skiers can relax their tired muscles.

If you go:

Address: 2168 Kenan Ave, Keyan

Transport: Take a plane/train/bus to Shaoxing, then grab a taxi.

Open: 9am-5pm, 6-9pm, all year round

Tickets: 240 yuan/four hours on weekdays

330 yuan/four hours on weekends

Skiwear Rental: 30 yuan

Tel: 0575-8985-9999

Website: (Chinese version only)

Nanshan Ski Village


In operation since 2001, the ski village near Miyun County, around 60km from Beijing's downtown area, has 21 runs catering for all levels of ability.

It is capable of receiving 5,000 skiers each day and the Nike 6.0 Nanshan Park and Mogul Slope are very popular with the locals.

Those who aren't so keen on the snow can try toboganning on a 1,318m dry run which passes through nine viaducts and a 100m-long tunnel.

There's a ski school at the village with more than 120 qualified coaches for both adults and children.

For apres-ski entertainment, a cafe serves delicious cakes and coffee.

If you go:

Address: Shengshuitou Village, Nanzhai Town, Miyun County

Transport: From Beijing, drive along Jingcheng Expressway and take the Miyun 16 exit, then turn right.

Open: 9am-5:30pm (winter), 9am-6pm (spring)

Tickets: 140 yuan/four hours, 220 yuan/whole day on weekdays; 200 yuan/four hours, 360 yuan/whole day on weekends

Skiwear rental: 20 yuan

Tel: 010-5867-8335

Website: (English/Chinese)

Tips for skiing

? Abdominal training

The abdomen is a core muscle in the body, and as the most important connection between the upper and lower parts of the body it needs to be strong enough to meet skiing's physical demands.

? Balance

Balance is one of the most important skills to practice before skiing, owing to how slippery snow can be and how difficult it can be to turn on skis.

? Dress code

Staying warm is the first and most important thing. Despite the snow, the sun can be very bright so sunglasses are recommended, while goggles and water-proof outerwear are essential. It may not always be trendy, but wearing colorful clothing can increase the chances of being found in the event of being lost in heavy snow areas.

? Skin protection

Apply sun cream that will protect the skin from sun, wind and freezing cold temperatures.

? Insurance

As skiing requires physical effort and can take place in a dangerous environment with risks involved, it is recommended to buy suitable insurance cover.


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