Children enjoy free ski boom
School-age children take ski lessons at the Daihai International Ski Resort in Liangcheng county, Ulaanqab, Inner Mongolia autonomous region. [Photo provided to China Daily]
North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region has invested in resorts, training to encourage new generation of skiers.
Huang Quangui loves to ski. The ski instructor has been teaching people of all ages in several different cities in the north of the country for the past two decades.
In 2019, with the opening of the Daihai International Ski Resort in Liangcheng county in Ulaanqab, Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Huang began teaching school-age children how to ski, something of which he is proud.
"I want them to feel the joy of skiing. They are all in their teens, and I will be really happy if they are able to join the national team as professional skiers in the future," he said.
The climate is ideal. Winter temperatures in Liangcheng, which has a population of 230,000 and is located toward the southern half of Inner Mongolia, average between 0 and-10 C.
As part of an effort to popularize winter sports among youth, the regional government decided to build a ski resort to expand the pool of professional skiers in the region.
"The Daihai International Ski Resort project started in 2017, and in November 2019, we started an amateur ski team at the Liangcheng Sports School," said Zhang Qiaosheng, principal of the school.
It has 50 members－the youngest is 8 and the oldest is 13. "The project is sponsored by the regional government, so children can learn for free. So far, five team members have been selected for the regional team and have gone on to become professional athletes," Zhang said.
Lying at an altitude of 2,100 meters, the ski resort, which opened to the public in 2018, has 12 slopes, including one mogul. It covers 400,000 square meters and has runs totaling 14 kilometers.
"Over the past three years, we've gained recognition from parents, and more are willing to let their children join our school," Zhang said.
Students from the Liangcheng Sports School train at the ski resort. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Enrollment is free. Courses are taught on weekends and during the winter break.
"At present, we only have two full-time professional coaches, both of whom we recruited from Heilongjiang province," he added.
One of them is 44-year-old Huang, from Harbin, the provincial capital.
"I used to be an instructor at ski resorts in Chongli, Hebei province, and in Beijing's Miyun district, and I was once the head of an alpine rescue team in Harbin," Huang said.
After being recommended by a friend, Huang became an instructor at Daihai in 2019.
"I think the popularization of skiing is a reflection of national strength and power, because the venue, equipment and snow all need investment," he said.
He has witnessed the development of the sport and its associated infrastructure across the country over the last two decades.
"We lacked domestically-developed snowcats and snow machines, as well as technicians. But now, we can make these things ourselves," Huang said.
"I fully support the idea of encouraging 300 million people to try winter sports, and I believe we will have more talented winter sports athletes in the future.
"Skiing is not only for children. People in their 30s, 40s, 50s and even 60s can also participate."
Ni Caixia, a teacher at a primary school in Liangcheng, said, "My daughter has become more outgoing and self-reliant since she started skiing in 2019."
Every winter since then, Ni has accompanied her 12-year-old to Daihai for her free lessons.
"Skiing requires the courage and strength to take on the freezing cold and the slopes. It's a good sport for children to develop these qualities," she added.