Ningxia China’s Bordeaux, Changbaishan Could Be Its Ski Capital
Listed alongside the likes of Rio de Janeiro, Bhutan, and Montenegro, this week Ningxia in central China and Changbaishan in the northeast were called out as must-visit destinations in the New York Times “46 Places To Go In 2013” list. Arguably the heartland of China’s developing wine industry, Ningxia has gained a great deal of attention in recent years, owing to the rising quality of its boutique wineries — among them Silver Heights (Jing Daily interview) and Pernod Ricard-invested Helan Mountain. Later this year, Moët Hennessy’s Chandon Ningxia winery joint venture will begin producing sparkling white wine from locally grown Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc grapes.
As the New York Times writes of Ningxia:
Growing wine grapes in a desert isn’t normally a formula for oenological excellence, but in the arid mountainous region of Ningxia, some 550 miles west of Beijing, the local government has reclaimed desert-like expanses, irrigated them profusely, planted them with cabernet sauvignon and merlot and started a campaign to transform this rugged backwater into China’s answer to Bordeaux. The plan is already working. The French beverage giant Pernod Ricard has invested in the Helan Mountain brand, and LVMH — the luxury group that owns some of the top Champagne houses in France — is teaming with the region’s oldest winery, Xi Xia King, to make sparkling wine. Numerous other wineries — some with cut-and-paste French chateau architecture — now operate in Ningxia, including Silver Heights and Helan Qingxue, which picked up top honors this year at the inaugural Ningxia Wine Awards. Red China is taking on a whole new meaning.
Also on this year’s list is Changbaishan, a rising star in the nascent ski industry. Though skiing is still a relatively new pastime in China, the China Ski Association noted last year that the number of skiers in China rose from only 200,000 per year in 2000 to more than 5 million by 2005, and by 2014, that number should rise to around 20 million. Looking to take advantage of this steadily growing interest, this past summer the American hotel giant Starwood Hotels and Resorts opened the doors of its first “dual-branded” ski resort complex in China in Changbaishan, encompassing the Westin Changbaishan and Sheraton Changbaishan Resorts. Though far from a boutique eco-resort, the new Westin/Sheraton complex looks to leverage the natural beauty of the Changbai mountain range, with its sprawling pine forests, ponds and a 494,000 acre nature reserve.
As the NYT writes of Changbaishan:
China’s ski industry has come a long way since the mid-1990s, when the country had fewer than 10,000 skiers and only nine small resorts. That number has now risen to more than 200, one of the most ambitious of which is Changbaishan, which opened this winter in a pine-studded nature reserve in Jilin province near the North Korean border. The $3.2 billion resort is one of the largest in Asia, with 43 trails totaling nearly 20 miles, and has a partner in Starwood, which opened a Westin and Sheraton resort with more than 500 combined rooms there in July. There’s even talk of starting up a Davos-style global entrepreneurs forum.