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China's winter sports industry ushers in golden age

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-05-06 10:39

BEIJING — Chongli's Genting ski resort was met with a problem this season - too many parents trying to enter their children into its ski training camp.

This year, the price rose by 2,000 yuan (about $290) to 8800 yuan for the six-day camp while the number of participants jumped to 2,800 from 300 last season. Still, Genting marketing director Zhao Qiong had to ignore as many as possible phone calls asking for an entrance.

"Back in 2013, we offered quite a discount and peddled our training camp school after school. Now I am stunned by the boom," said Zhao.

The ski industry all over China has recently faced a surge in enrollment, momentum that is part of the central government's plans to boost participation in winter sports across the country.

Previously lack in real winter sports tradition, China has been working hard to establish its prominence in previous editions of the Winter Olympics. And the country that is soon to host the 2022 Winter Olympics has stepped up its effort and introduced nationwide initiatives to engage 300 million people in winter sports.

Recent projections released by the government show that the industrial scale of winter sports should reach 600 billion yuan (about $87 billion) by 2020, and this is set to further increase to one trillion by the year 2025 if all goes according to plan.

"We have reached what I would call the 'golden twenties years' of the winter sports industry (in China)," confirms by Lin Xianpeng, vice department head of the Beijing Sports University Marketing program.

Given this rapid growth rate, there should be no less than 650 skating rinks and 800 skiing venues by 2022. Things are already moving in that direction. 2017 has seen an 18% increase in comparison to last year's number of skiers at the 500 skiing sites nationwide.

The industry has already seen a fast expansion immediately after Beijing was awarded the right to host the Games in the summer of 2015.

Northwest of Chongli, Hebei province, the location where Olympic snowboarding and freestyle skiing will be held in 2022 became a popular skiing destination, not just for Beijing residents, but also for fans all over the country, even from abroad.

Wanglong ski resort, in Chongli, recorded almost four times of tourists in 2015-2016 season in comparison to the previous season.

Currently boasting six major resorts in business, Chongli aims to become a top skiing destination. Rapid growth and an improved landscape allows it to host large-scale events such as the 2017 FIS World Cup - Ladies' Dual Moguls.

It was Chongli's first time to host such a major event, and officials hosted an a quality event in line with international standards. That is the view of Chen Gang, a management official with Chongli's Thaiwoo ski resort.

"From the entire human resource system to facility foundations and business models, we hoped to match international and industry-approved standards," Chen said.

Not only has this development initiative increased the public's passion for winter sports, it has also benefitted nearby residents with new employment opportunities.

Bolder plans are also said to be on the horizon. Member of the International Olympics Committee (IOC), Yang Yang, is taking steps to bring skiing to the hot and humid south. Having already set up a facility in Shanghai, Yang believes that winter sports should not be limited to the country's north.

"Consider Los Angeles, it has one of the best training facilities up to date. Including top teams playing in the National Hockey League (NHL), figure skating, free style skiing, and others," she said.

Business researcher and head of the sports department at Peking University Yi Jiandong says steps can be taken to ensure that winter sports are possible, regardless of climate-related difficulties. He states that with the advances in technology, winter sports will definitely not be geographically limited. Man-made snow, portable and indoor ski fields are all said to be in the cards for the future development of winter sports across the country.

Facilities across the country are expecting to welcome more seasoned skiers, beginners, investors, and international crowds as this phenomenon expands. Committed to inspiring 300 million people to join winter sports, local governments across the country are going all-out to push winter sports forward. Even though ski culture is relatively new to China in comparison developed countries, people and businesses are bracing for a snowstorm of winter sports fury.

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