Big-name snowboarders from all over the world zoom through the air, performing epic tricks for impressive prize money at an annual tournament held 70km from downtown Beijing.
When people think of snowboarding, the Chinese capital may not immediately spring to mind. But since Beijing was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, cold season sports have surged in popularity.
This particular event, the world snowboarding open, held at Nanshan Mellow Park, is among the largest of such slope-style competitions in Asia. It was launched just four years after the edgy action sport made its Winter Olympic debut.
The park sits amidst Nanshan Ski Village, which hosts a relatively young ski open. Yet the main-stream winter sport is itself ancient, originating in Stone Age China.
Most of the 2022 Olympic skiing and snowboarding contests will take place in the up-and-coming ‘snow bunny’ destination of Chongli, in Hebei Province. A high-speed railway, now in the works, will whisk visitors from downtown Beijing to its epicentre, the Zhangjiakou Zone, in under an hour.
One of the famous ski resorts in the area, scenic Wanlong, is known for its long runs and diverse terrain on Mount Honghualiang. Another, Cuiyunshan, features three varied level runs, nestled within a white birch forest.
Skiers at the new €3.42 billion Fulong mega resort are transported up mountains on conveyor belt lifts known as ‘magic carpets’ — a poetic term which conjures up images of the Beijing 2022 emblem: ‘winter dream.’
Action Shots and Snowy Selfies
‘Shredders,’ sledders and skiers make vibrant subjects for photographers and videographers seeking to capture action shots at resorts, from Badaling Town to Yunfoshan.
Central Beijing is also ready for its close up, as it dramatically transforms during winter months. Major points of interest, such as UNESCO World Heritage Site The Forbidden City, become snow- and ice-capped — adding new layers to stunning photo-ready scenes.
The three millennia-old metropolis is punctuated by eye-catching red hues in its architecture and ornamentation like ‘good luck’ knots – a craft which dates back 1,000 years.
Skating enthusiasts dot the lake at another World Heritage Site, The Summer Palace, as it ices over to form Beijing’s largest natural rink.
Indoors, at the China World Shopping Centre, the LeCool skating rink brings together gift-hunting and winter family fun.
Warm up for Beijing winter sports or enjoy cosy comforts from the sidelines…
• Bathing in hot springs is a centuries-old Chinese tradition
• The St. Regis Beijing has some of the city’s most luxurious natural hot springs, which rise from 1,500m below ground, flowing into Jacuzzi tubs
• The Guishui River passes directly through the 200,000m2 Beijing Jinyu Badaling Spa Resort, which is just 17km from the Great Wall of China
• Local winter cuisine ignites the palate. Instant-boiled mutton hot pot is a Beijing staple
• Visit the city’s hutong alleyways for spicy winter stews and other steaming-hot street foods like buns, dumplings, miancha and crispy Peking Duck
Let the Games Begin
It’s perhaps not surprising that ice skating is popular. After all, Wu Dajing became a national hero when he secured China’s first gold medal at the XXIII Winter Olympic Games in men's 500m short track skating — breaking his own world record.
Would-be Olympians can sometimes be spotted around the Olympic Green Village, chasing the ice hockey puck — evidence of the fast-paced sport’s growing influence.
In Winter 2022, the Games’ opening and closing ceremonies will be held on the grounds at the Beijing National Stadium (‘Bird’s Nest’), where its summer counterpart launched and concluded in 2008. It is the first city to host both seasons’ Olympics in over a century.
In January, the public gets a chance to sled at this landmark sporting locale during the Bird’s Nest Ice and Snow Carnival.
Other cold season events include winter festivals in Yuyuantan Park, which feature snow-tubing.
In Happy Valley, China’s answer to Disneyland, a snow carnival dazzles visitors.
Winter Hikes Through Frozen Wonderlands…
• 50m ice climbing wall in Taoyuan Xiangu — Nanshicheng Village, Shicheng Town, Miyun District
• Icefalls and crystal-clear frozen lakes at Black Dragon Pool — Shicheng Town, Miyun District
• Natural ice sculptures 2,118m above sea level at Wuling Mountain — Yunxiu Valley Scenic Spot
• Ice cascades and white jade-like icefall at Shuanglong Gorge — Zhaitang Town, Mentougou District
Off the Beaten Path
Beyond amusement parks, icy fairylands abound in the city’s suburbs.
Shenquan Gorge in Mentougou District is home to natural crystal cascades, which make Superman’s cave look like a modest winter hut. Its ice lantern festival runs December through March, ushering in the lunar new year.
In Yanqing District, natural splendour gives way to one of the season’s most exhilarating light and lantern displays. The Longqing Gorge Ice Lantern Festival captivates visitors with hundreds of paper lights and illuminated trees. Artistic ice and snow carvings of everything from temples to hutongs (narrow Beijing alleyways) are a nod to the capital’s culture.
The last Longqing Gorge festival included Beijing Winter Olympic elements — setting a tone of excitement, as sportspeople and fans gear up for the games.
Meanwhile, new and established ice rinks, ski resorts and snowboarding parks throughout the city and its outskirts are lifting sporting spirits and building momentum. And Beijing is racing ahead to become a global snow sport and activity destination — making its ‘winter dream’ a reality.
Explore snow sports and spectacles on Beijing Tourism’s website.