Monday, February 05, 2007

It's hard to get a real sense of Wanlong ski resort from these photos, but it's not bad skiing (trail map here) considering the other choices currently available in China. Colleagues, as well as the bulletin boards at that's Beijing have reported big crowds, bad lines, dangerous beginners and tiny bunny hills elsewhere. Nan Shan is said to have a good snowboard park, and a problematic lift at Shi Jing Long supposedly stranded passengers for two hours. Wanlong has a combination of natural and man-made snow, is decently groomed, operates about four lifts, six runs. Not particularly difficult, but enough skiing to make you sore. One local did crash into one of our group, sending him flying. The local kept going.

It's a 3-1/2 hour bus ride north of Beijing, in industrial Zhangjiakou, Hebei province. There are $67 suites that sleep four in a comfy hotel at the foot of the chairlifts. A day and a half lift pass is about $38 if you have your own equipment, about $64 if you need to rent: quite expensive by Chinese standards. Not only did Wanlong rent parabolic Salomon skis, but many of the Chinese customers were kitted out in the latest brand name helmets and ski gear. Customer service was better than in Beijing's five star hotels.

Nearby work has begin on another resort called Saibei Dolomiti Ski, a joint venture between the Chongli county government and a private company that seems to be comprised of Italian and German investors. It's about three or four square miles, and will be five times as a big in a few years. At the moment, one trail, a mile long, is finished, and ski fans are blogging about trying it out possibly for free, before the coming Spring Festival. You'd have to stay in Chongli county or in a farmer's home because there's no hotel yet.