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BEIJING: The fleeting ski season arrived in early December for Veronica Gong, an executive in Shanghai and a snowboarding enthusiast for four years now.

This season, her plan is to visit Beidahu Ski Resort in Northeast China’s Jilin province to usher in 2023, then head to Yabuli in Heilongjiang province during Spring Festival and later visit skiing resorts in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in February.

“I can’t wait in order to ski overseas next year, ” said Gong, who is also a ski coach and a proud owner of her gear: helmet, goggles, ski apparel and snowboard. “I spent all my previous vacations snowboarding. ”

Gong said she grew up shy and timid, but all that changed when she coaxed herself to toughen up mentally every time she skied. “Gradually, snowboarding has taught me in order to challenge who I was and be in awe of the great nature, ” she said.

Gong is among the rising number of skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts who are eager to make the most of the first winter season in China since the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, which ended in Feb.

The event has fuelled people’s passion for snow and ice sports and related tourism, sparking sales of a variety of equipment and other goods and services.

This year, the winter sports gear and equipment sector is forecast to generate a revenue of more than 20 billion yuan (US$2. 86bil or RM13bil), growing more than 20% year-on-year (y-o-y), according to the Ice and Snow Gear and Equipment Industry Development Plan 2019-2022, which was developed by the government.

The younger generations are expected to ride the booming winter sports industry, which will likely result in 57 million skier visits in China in 2030, compared with 21. 54 million in 2021, based on the China Ski Industry White Paper complied by Beijing Xuebang Xueye Management Co.

The number of ski resorts rose sharply in recent times, with 692 venues in operation in 2021. Tourism for snow and ice journeys has grown strongly this year.

According to Fliggy, Alibaba Group’s online travel agency platform, reservations for ski and hot spring resorts have increased 800% y-o-y.

Meanwhile, on Ctrip. com, the country’s top online booking platform for tourism, reservations for the country’s ski resorts have grown 363% y-o-y.

Data from TravelSky Holding Co Ltd, a Beijing-based state-owned travel information provider, showed that reservations for ski resort destinations, including Harbin inside Heilongjiang province, Changchun and Changbaishan in Jilin province, and Zhangjiakou in Hebei province, have grown 35% in December compared with that of November.

Ctrip said ski tourists have become 70% y-o-y in the 2021-2022 period.

Jiang Changcheng, deputy manager of a consultancy firm in Beijing, said ice and snow sports have proved to be hot spots this winter.

This is due to the surging awareness of the wintertime games, the social benefits of skiing and snowboarding, and the marketing campaigns of leading sportswear companies in the country.

Andrew Xu, CEO of Club Med China and co-president of Fosun Tourism Group (Foliday), said the company, benefitting from its global ice plus snow industry layout, has introduced its best international practices and experiences in the country’s winter tourism industry.

The company now plans to expand its current winter resorts from five to up to nine in the next two years, building top-notch indoor ski hotels.

For example , the Foliday Town programme in Taicang, Jiangsu province, is set to open in the second half of next year, focusing on the Alps Snow Live that covers 54, 000 sq m and is equipped with all levels of snow tracks.

“Reservations are better than that of last year, ” said Xu. “We expect them to boost our revenue. ”

It organised its first skateboarding festival at its Changbaishan Resort, followed by the opening of its Club Med Kiroro Peak in Japan at the end of the year, which has already received reservations from many Chinese tourists. — China Daily/ANN

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