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Enterprising skier brings convenience to the slopes

By Yan Dongjie | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-27 09:31

Yu Momo works at Koktokay Ski Resort, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, in November. CHINA DAILY

This winter, skiing enthusiast Yu Momo has been involved in an average of two rescue operations near Koktokay Ski Resort in Altay, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, every week.

In March of last year, a severe avalanche occurred at Koktokay, trapping four tourists who had ventured outside the regulated skiing area. Yu and some experienced skiers joined the resort's rescue team, totaling 16 people, to provide assistance.

"The rescue took 24 hours because most of the mountain was covered in snow with no roads. We had to rely on skiing, which not only required strong technical skills but also demanded good physical fitness and endurance," Yu recalled.

As an avid skier who has skied in over 20 countries, Yu first visited Koktokay in 2022 and became particularly fond of the snow and the people there. Consequently, he decided to stay, combining his passion with his career.

Now, in addition to working as a ski instructor at the resort, the budding entrepreneur has opened an eight-room homestay named Fanzhong Mountain Offroad Photography Club specifically catering to skiing enthusiasts. As well as the homestay, Yu is broadening out into other tourism services such as car rental and tours.

He currently has a fleet of 92 rental cars that can be picked up and dropped off at various locations in northern Xinjiang.

The inspiration for this car rental service model came from Yu's visit to Japan's Niseko Ski Resort, where visitors can simply fill in the rental period and flight number online in advance, present their ID and driver's license, and without a deposit, rent and return a car at various locations.

"We have staff to deliver and collect the cars, and any issues are handled online, ensuring that it doesn't disrupt the visitors' travel plans," Yu said.

This online-based rental and return model poses potential derivative issues such as vehicle scratches, and the time and effort required to address these problems have deterred many local rental companies in the past. However, in order to provide a better skiing experience for visitors, Yu is willing to give it a try.

"I believe that this service model would be very beneficial if implemented domestically," he said.

The rental service utilizes remote vehicle inspection with customers uploading a three-to-five-minute video of their car's condition after use. Before this feature was implemented, Yu's company suffered losses in post-damage claims for vehicles.

"I want to provide comprehensive services in the ice and snow industry, including dining, accommodation, ski equipment rental and car rental services, allowing skiing enthusiasts to travel light and enjoy skiing more conveniently in this skiing paradise," he said.

Yu Momo (left) greets foreign skiers at Koktokay Ski Resort during the winter snow season last year. CHINA DAILY

This winter, Yu launched a 15-day, 14,999 yuan ($2,090) Xinjiang skiing package, which has been taken up by many tourists.

"Continuously taking on new challenges, growing and achieving a sense of accomplishment are important to me in life," he said.

The 32-year-old, originally from the Ningxia Hui autonomous region, has been passionate about extreme sports since childhood, having been involved in almost all extreme sports. In 2019, he tried skiing for the first time in New Zealand and instantly fell in love with it.

"When I engage in these sports, I feel like I can truly be myself."

For Yu, winter should be spent on the ski slopes, while summer should be spent on a motorcycle.

He enjoys motorcycle touring and has ridden in eight European countries and nearly all the countries in Asia.

"If I want to go somewhere, I go. I don't want to have regrets when I'm older. I approach things the same way now. I do things my way, and I have a high level of execution," Yu said.

In 2005, at the age of 14, Yu represented the Ningxia Motorcycle Association in a youth motorcycle open tournament, winning a prize of 3,500 yuan.

His continued outstanding performances in competitions not only brought him great fame in the industry but also provided him with economic independence, allowing him to pursue his hobbies and do what he wanted with more financial means and time.

"Motorcycling was originally just a hobby, and I didn't expect to make money from it. I began by winning prizes, and later received endorsements. Since I was 14, I haven't spent a penny from my family," Yu said.

In 2006, Yu was invited to the city of Ordos to participate in a national motorcycle race, where he secured second place in the national amateur youth category.

From nine in the morning to nine at night, most of Yu's day is spent at the ski resort. Here, he encounters skiing enthusiasts from all walks of life. His most memorable encounter was with a 72-year-old grandfather who still takes to the slopes.

"If I can be like him when I'm in my 70s, I'll be very satisfied. To be able to persist in doing what you love in your 70s is remarkable," he said.

Located at the golden latitude for world-class skiing, Koktokay has a snow season that lasts up to 240 days a year and currently boasts 27 ski courses. "The snow here is great, and it's very safe," Yu said.

Due to the complex terrain, the resort has put a lot of effort into ensuring effective rescue operations, investing heavily in improving the resort's protective and rescue facilities, such as safety nets and snowmobiles.

"The speed of the rescue makes me feel very secure skiing here. As long as you can give a rough location, they can find you," Yu added.

Recently, agreements between China and countries such as Georgia and Kazakhstan to mutually exempt visas have come into effect. As a result of this convenience and the resumption of flights, the willingness of domestic tourists to travel abroad has been increasing.

"I plan to start exploring in February. If feasible, I will begin preparing for the construction of a global skiing platform," Yu said. His global skiing platform includes three major ski resorts in Xinjiang, as well as those in Kazakhstan, Georgia, Serbia and other countries.

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