China is famous for a great many things, but as far as ski resorts are concerned it doesn’t exactly strike excitement into the hearts and minds of avid skiers and snowboarders. Skiing is still a relatively young sport in the ancient kingdom and has only recently become more mainstream. In fact, modern winter sports only started gaining popularity by the end of the twentieth century. The cold winters in the northern parts of the country form the ideal conditions and ski resorts have been popping up all over. The perception of skiing in China is changing rapidly, as the sport’s popularity grows with a young generation that is finding purpose in the snow.
Huabei International Ski Resort
Huaibei International Ski Resort was our first choice during our trip to Beijing. Although there are numerous ski resorts scattered around the capital, Huabei caught our attention due to its proximity to the Great Wall. The thought of being able to admire this colossal structure, while gliding down the white, powdery slopes, was more than enough to seal the deal.
The resort has four slopes on offer and is ideal for beginners and those of intermediate skill. It is open to the public from the beginning of December to the end of February. All the necessary skiing equipment, including clothes, is available for hire at the resort. You can also get an instructor to show you the ropes.
For the most part, the snow at the resort is man-made, since the arid winter climate doesn’t produce much natural snow. Unless you’re extremely finicky, this won’t be much of a bother. To us, it made absolutely no difference, as we aren’t used to anything else.
While planning our trip, we had a hard time finding conclusive price data. We were expecting it to be quite expensive, as these kind of tourist activities normally are. To our surprise, we ended up paying no more than 90 RMB ($15) per person for the entire day, everything included.
Per Person Costs;
- 38-169 RMB for a day pass, which includes the rent of your skis or snowboard. The price of the pass is dependent on the day of the week. Monday is the cheapest, Sunday is the most expensive and all the other days are priced, on an increasing trend, in between.
- 300 RMB deposit. The rental costs for all extra equipment that you hire will be deducted from the deposit. Whatever is left can be reclaimed after you return all of your equipment.
These were the prices specified during December and they might be subject to change later in the season.
Our Experience and Some Final Thoughts
As South Africans, we don’t often see snow and skiing is something that is reserved for people fortunate enough to travel to Europe. So, we felt inclined to try our luck at skiing during our trip to Beijing.
Stubborn as we are, we opted not to get an instructor. Thinking that my surfing background would aid me, I decided to take a snowboard instead of skis. It took me a while to find my “snow”-feet, but I eventually managed. I quickly gained confidence and within no time at all, I was taking on the more challenging slopes. At first, it was quite exciting. The speed and adrenaline motivated me to trade my confidence for cockiness. As these kinds of things go, the cockiness evolved into regret and a good amount of pain. Nonetheless, it was great fun and I’d definitely do it again.
Overall, we had a great experience at the Huaibei International Ski Resort. The staff was extremely friendly, even though many couldn’t speak any English. The language barrier resulted in some confusion at the reception counter, but it was no more inconvenient than anywhere else in China.
There is a snack shop, but choices are rather limited, so pack your own snacks. Taking a few bottles of water is also a good idea. The snacks will come in handy, especially during the journey home.
How do you get there?
By far the easiest way to get to Huaibei International ski resort is to get a Didi or a taxi. The resort is about 85 km north of the city centre, so taking a taxi will probably be upwards of 300RMB.
The best alternative is to take bus 916. It departs from Dongzhimen station. When you get to the bus station, head to the information counter and confirm with them which bus you need to take. Also, make sure to verify which stop you need to get off. At the specified bus stop, you’ll be able to find taxis and/or minibuses to take you to the resort. You’ll still have to cough up a few kuai, but it’s still much cheaper than a taxi from the city centre. It takes about 2 hours to reach the resort by bus.
On our way back from the ski resort, we met the best driver a “laowai” could ever ask for. Mr Gao took us from the ski resort back to the bus station. His English is quite decent and he was more than happy to share his knowledge regarding the tourist attractions in the area. He was most informative and I would recommend him to anyone that is in need of a ride in the area northeast of Beijing. He usually takes tourists to the Mutianyu Great Wall and other attractions nearby. This is his WeChat ID: wxid_nygk87khfppj12. Feel free to add him.