With the Winter Olympics headed to Beijing in 2022, China has made significant investments in their winter sports industry over the past few years. As part of these investments, a brand new state-of-the-art artificial ski resort has just opened in the mountains near the eastern city of Qingzhou.
The glowing white slopes of the Yunmen Mountain Resort are a stark contrast to the dark-green mountains behind them, although the building was carefully designed to mimic the natural undulations of the mountainside. The forest encompassing the complex is relatively untouched, so great care was taken in preserving the natural beauty of the area. The building will act as a viewing platform for the existing environment rather than as a disruptive eyesore.
The new resort was built as part of the Chinese National Development & Reform Commission’s 2016 agenda, which allocated over $220 billion specifically to build about 800 new ski resorts throughout China before the next games. In addition to this, 650 ice-skating rinks will be built across the country.
During the February 2018 games, which took place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, China came in 16th place overall, winning two bronze medals, six silver, and just one gold. This put them behind many of their political and cultural rivals, such as the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and Russia. The Republic even ranked lower than some much smaller countries such as the Czech Republic and Belarus, which have a combined population of around 20 million compared to China’s 1.3 billion.
The Chinese government hopes that by investing substantial amounts into winter sports for the years leading up to the games, they can significantly improve their ranking when they host the games 4 years from now. In addition to providing their athletes with more opportunities to practice, the government hopes that this will promote a burgeoning sporting industry in the country, with the aim of getting 300 million people involved in winter sports over the next 4 years.
With only 2 ski slopes and 3 for visitors to go tubing on, this new resort is far from the biggest that has been built ahead of the games. In 2017, China’s richest billionaire opened the world’s largest indoor ski resort, the Harbin Wanda Indoor Ski and Winter Sports Resort, which is over 860,000 square feet, can accommodate 3,000 people at a time, and even includes full-size chairlifts.
At just over 180,000 square feet, the resort at Yunmen is significantly smaller. However, it has been designed in such a way that it will more accurately recreate the experience of skiing on a natural slope, by taking into account the skier’s line of sight, sense of speed, and feel of the wind. It will also serve as one of the primary training locations for the country’s snowboarding team throughout the summer months.
The Chinese government is known for taking on large-scale projects such as this, but not all have been successful. The country is littered with hundreds of full-scale cities that were purpose-built from nothing but now sit completely devoid of human life. Only time will tell whether these ski resorts will transform the Chinese sporting industry or suffer the same fate as these ghost cities.