Although many people in northern China prefer to stay indoors as much as possible during the harsh winter months, an increasing number are getting interested in winter sports and outdoor activities. This winter, the growing number of winter sports fans will have new activities available to them, even in the heart of Beijing, where the Bird's Nest will -- between December 19 and February 20 -- be converted into a "Happy Snow World."
As the organizers have pointed out, winter activities appealing mainly to families with younger children have been few and far between in the past, although businesses have started to recognize the potential of this market:
"We do a lot of family tours and are always on the lookout for the most exciting things China has to offer foreign visitors. Family travel is not the same as group travel, we keep the schedules flexible and do things the local Chinese do with their kids. It offers foreign children the chance to mix with Chinese children, who are always interested to meet and play with them," comments Judy Huang, travel manager of The China Guide.
Along with Happy Snow World, Beijing has many kid friendly options during the winter. One favorite activity is skating on Houhai Lake. Families can spend an afternoon on the ice and then stroll the Houhai neighborhood which is lined with boutiques, cafes and vendors. This can also be done in conjunction with a hutong tour, rickshaw ride or dumpling making class.
The China Guide also suggests a day of skiing at one of Beijing's nearby hills such as Nanshan or Jundushan Ski Resort. Skiing comes complete with equipment and suit rentals at an inexpensive rate.
For adults, skiing and snowboarding at one of China's ski resorts might be more their speed. Recently, developers have invested heavily in building up China's ski resort infrastructure, working to get Chinese resorts up to the level of their Japanese or Australian counterparts and bring in domestic and foreign skiing enthusiasts. Recently, PlanetSKI wrote on an interesting development in the Chinese ski industry, as the Yabuli ski resortin China’s Heilongjiang province announced that it plans to invest $100 million to upgrade its facilities and build two more five-star hotels. The resort, which had previously been criticized by some foreign skiers for sub-standard accommodations, is seeking to shed any semblance of this image by emerging as China’s premier international-level ski resort.
[Yabuli's] new hotels have been built in a new development, Sun Mountain Resort, which also includes a heated gondola complete with leather seats, mini-bars and BOSE sound systems as well as a six-seater high speed chairlift.
It’s been designed by Ecosign, the Vancouver based company which is behind the design of dozens of leading ski areas worldwide.
The last of the three hotels, which have added over 300 luxury hotel rooms in total, opens this autumn.
A new road to the regional capital Harbin, just under 200km away, as well as a new rail- link which opened in late 2007 have also improved access to the resort.