Skiing next to the Great Wall

Skiing is something I hadn’t predicted doing in China.

As winter came upon us and after doing some research, it seemed clear that skiing was becoming a popular winter activity in northern China. There are actually several ski options within a 2 hours distance from Beijing. Now don’t be thinking anything like Vail, Park City or Aspen, but at the end of the day, skiing is skiing. And Skiing is super fun.

We chose a ski resort only an hour from Beijing because the price was amazing and there was a key selling point we could see  Ming-era towers of the Great Wall from the slopes. Beijing Huaibei International Ski Resort (北京怀北国际滑雪场) is the only ski resort surrounded by the Great Wall on three sides. It is one a ski resort that primarily caters to beginners and more advanced skiers and this resort is especially popular for snowboarders .

We went with a few of our friends from work and  took a long-distance bus from Beijing and arrived at the resort around 9:00 am. As we pulled into the resort, there was a huge tower of the Great Wall in the background and the morning sun was making it look especially spectacular. We had to put down a 300 RMB deposit (that’s about 50 USD) and then we paid another 300 RMB for the bus transfer and gear rental. All in all, our whole day of skiing cost us less than 50 dollars. To say it was a steal is an understatement.

However, to say that it is a resort is an overstatement. There were six or seven villas where people could stay overnight and one restaurant. I will say that it was impressive to see how popular this resort was after only being opened for ten years. We went on a Tuesday and there were a considerable amount of people there.Well it is China so there are a considerable amount of people everywhere, but in my mind I was thinking, “Hey, way to go China!” I always encourage physical recreation in any capacity.

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Great Wall of China in the background

In our group were three Americans, one Canadian, one Brit and one South African so you can imagine the range of experience we had. The Brit and South African had never been skiing before so the Canadian greatly assisted them in learning how to ski. It was great fun going down the beginner slopes with a sample of people from English-speaking nationalities. We stood out like a sore thumb against the Chinese people , especially when we were whooping and hollering at each other out of excitement. We Westerners are so expressive.

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After a couple of runs on the beginner slopes a few of us moved onto the more challenging ones. Taking the chair lift up the mountain was possibly one of the most exciting aspects of the day because we had a 360 view of the Great Wall of China in the distance. Another wonderful aspect about ski lifts is the silence. Have you ever noticed how wonderfully quiet going ski lifts are? I could only hear the rustle of the wind against the plants and the sound of the skis making their marks in the snow. So while I looked forward to skiing down the mountain, I looked forward to the ride up the mountain as well.

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five Great Wall towers seen on the ski lift

Towards the end of the day we went up the lift and there was a spectacular view of the wall so instead of going ahead and skiing down the mountain, I took off my skis and walked over to the edge of the mountain in order to take it all in.  I had one of those awe-inspiring moments and pinched myself  because what was in front of me was so spectacular. The sun was setting behind the Great Wall of China and a melting pot of international skiers were going down the slopes. China is constantly a contrast between the old and the new and this moment was just another example of this ongoing phenomenon.

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