China’s take on Chamonix

It’s only been about two weeks since I last put things up on here, but in that short space of time lots has happened! The two most noteworthy of these are…

First, skiing.

So I’d never been skiing before, and was among a group of friends who had very varied skiing ability – my Swiss friend has been on the slopes since before she could run, others had been on a good few skiing holidays in the past, and then there was me with zilch. I had been assured that I’d be whizzing down reds or blacks within the day and, although I took this assurance with a slight pinch of salt, I still felt a little complacent that I’d pick it up fairly easily and I was determined to avoid crashes and bruises.

Another question mark was hovering over what a Chinese ski resort included. Nanshan Ski Village (南山滑雪场 Nánshān Huáxuĕ Chăng sells itself as one of the best ski resorts in China, and failing that, Beijing’s premier resort (which wouldn’t be hard, as the rest of Beijing is as flat as a pancake). It is a fair hike from the city centre though – around two hours on a coach which conveniently left from Wudaokou and went directly to the resort – and is situated in the same mountains which are home to the Great Wall (unfortunately not within visible distance though). The buildings in the resort were desperately trying to masquerade as alpine chalets but, frankly, failing. Not to complain though, it was really very cheap – I seem to remember that the whole day out, including transport, ski and clothes hire, and entry tickets, cost around 200RMB (£20).

View up the slopes from the draglift

And as for the quality of the resort and the slopes (covered in artificial snow), it even lived up to the expectations held by my Swiss friend. There were a handful of green, blue and red runs, which were seemingly well-maintained and equipped with lifts, and one black slope which was an icy nightmare, according to the skilled skiers in our group. It exceeded our expectations of what a Chinese ski resort might be (as it is easy to imagine the Chinese might not really get it), and although I can’t compare to any European resorts, it seemed to be well run and good fun for people of all levels. It was fairly surprising to see how popular it was; affluent-looking young Chinese seemed to have expensive skis, snowboards and clothing, and they were pretty impressive on the slopes because they probably came to Nanshan fairly regularly. I also didn’t expect there to be so few tourists either. I suppose foreigners who come to China specifically for the skiing haven’t really got their priorities straight, it requires Chinese language skills to find out about it and get there in the first place, and Nanshan resort is very poorly publicised.

My first steps into the skis were clumsy and I have to admit to falling over about five or six times over the course of the day, but once I learned to get a little control and was familiar with the weight of the skis, how to stop and how to turn (sort of), it seemed to pick up and I really did get a nice taste of it. It was definitely a tantalising introduction to skiing and I’d definitely want to ski again in the near future.

So that’s a brief recount of what we did last Friday. Unfortunately the ski season’s finished apparently, now, otherwise I’d definitely be really tempted to take another trip back to Nanshan, given the good times there and the cheap cost.

The skiing was great, but it was frankly blown out of the water by a visit to the Great Wall and Jinshanling which we visited yesterday. More on that in a while…

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