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    After Delayed Winter, China’s Ski Resorts Swing Into High Gear

    Online ticket sales for skiing trips and winter sports in north China have surged in November, a sevenfold increase compared to 2019.

    Amid unusually warm temperatures, the ski season in northern China is sliding into gear a week later than usual this year. But with the first cold wave finally descending, reducing temperatures by six to 10 degrees Celsius, resorts have signaled the start of a delayed yet anticipated winter sports season.

    Recent data shows a surge in the winter sports market, with online group purchases for ski tickets in the first 19 days of November climbing by 788% compared with the same period in 2019, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

    Interest in skiing has soared on social media too, with online searches quadrupling over the past month and peaking during the Double Eleven shopping festival. On Weibo, a hashtag related to skiing saw a spike in engagement, amassing over 2.47 billion views.

    With Harbin, capital of the northeastern Heilongjiang province, receiving heavy snowfall in recent weeks, ski resorts in the region have reported an uptick since opening their slopes on Nov. 9. “There has been a significant increase in visitors compared to the same time last year,” a sales representative from the Yabuli Sun Mountain Ski Resort told Sixth Tone, without specifying exact numbers.

    According to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, as of Tuesday, the Yabuli resort has hosted a total of 25,000 tourists, including 11,000 skiing enthusiasts.  

    Meanwhile, Zhangjiakou, co-host of the 2022 Winter Olympics in the northern Hebei province, is drawing crowds to its six open ski areas in the Chongli District, all of which have reported a busier season than in previous years.

    “Skiing is very popular this year,” a representative of the Chongli Tourist Reception Center told Sixth Tone. “There have been a lot of visitors since the opening, much more than the same period last year.” She added the ski season is expected to last until next May. 

    Travel agencies are capitalizing on the renewed interest in winter sports by offering ski-related tour packages in northern China, particularly in the provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin. A customer service agent from China Comfort Travel told Sixth Tone that ski trip bookings are slated to begin on Dec. 1. 

    The spike in winter sports enthusiasm stems from Beijing’s successful bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics in 2015, which set out to engage 300 million people in ice and snow activities. 

    Riding the ice and snow sports trend, multiple regions have unveiled ambitious plans to boost local tourism through the development of winter sports facilities. Specifically, the northwestern Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region has vowed to construct over 100 ski resorts and elevate the standard of existing ones, aiming to raise its tally of 5A-level resorts from five to eight by 2025.

    Jilin, a province renowned for its ski facilities with 75 resorts and 319 trails, is also expected to expand its ice and snow industry to a scale of 500 billion yuan ($69 million) by 2025. In line with this goal, the provincial government has committed in an action plan, announced in October, to allocate an annual investment of 100 million yuan to bolster growth in this sector.

    Editor: Apurva. 

    (Header image: Tourists skiing at the Silk Road Resort in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Nov. 18, 2023. IC)