Here at the Duolomidi Resort in Chongli, China, the first BASI Snowboard Level 1 course has been underway this week with great snow conditions and very, very cold temperatures. Wednesday afternoon was -19C with a wind-chill factor of Baltic. BASI Trainer, Steph Wiehe, re-organised the programme and on Wednesday afternoon brought the students indoors and worked through all the lecture material – nothing was being achieved outside in the Siberian temperatures.
Thursday saw temperatures rise and the wind drop so all the class sessions were covered and today – Friday is the finale! It’s over cast and snowing but warmer than previous days…
Chongli (3 hours north of Beijing) is the host town for the Olympic snowsports events planned for 2022. Resort development began in earnest here around five years ago and from Chongli town there are, so far, around six or seven resorts of various sizes with more planned to open over the next few years.
We all know the snowsports world of instructors is like a large family and where better that China to meet old friends and make new ones. This week we have met up with Cesar Piotto from NZSIA and his band of 10 instructors. Cesar has a 3 year contract as Deputy General Manager of the Taiwoo Ski and Mountain Resort – set to be the next new resort to open up in Chongli. Cesar’s team are busy training up ski patrol and instructors for Taiwoo – the opening date is 10 December!
His team showed us some pictures of the site (sorry they are not allowed to share photos pre – opening as part of their contracts). Taiwoo is positioning itself as an International Resort and the scale looks enormous. It’s aim is to be a year round resort offering snowsports in winter and hiking, biking and mountain running – a resort for Beijingers to escape to and get some fresh air. The new gondola is currently being tested and there are 2 sky cranes still busy on site. 10 December (from the pictures we saw) looks ambitious but this is China and anything could happen.
As well as Cesar and the Kiwis we met Charlie from PSIA who is here training up Chinese instructors for the Secret Garden Resort and the Austrians are here doing something similar in Wanlong resort – all these resorts are based out of Chongli and in need of huge numbers of instructors to serve a swelling market.
Wolfgang Presinger (Austria) has been in China for 15 years and is delivering the Anwarter courses in November and another course in January 16. Each of the Austrian courses will accommodate 15 students over 12 days. Cesar over at Taewoo hopes that by Spring 2016 some of his instructors will be ready for their NZSIA level 1 but he has a huge range of ability and is having to teach some of his new charges how to ski! On arrival he took charge of his first 50 instructors and was not been involved in the initial stages of the process so he’s busy trying to turn off that recruitment tap!
Josh Duncan Smith (BASI Level 2 and NZSIA Trainer) is here in Duolomidi for 3 weeks advising the Antaeus Snowsports School – the inhouse mountain school. Again training up local instructors and advising on the ski school management. Original investment backers for this resort were Italian and hence the name -Dolomiti, however the Italian investors pulled out a few years ago and so the name was changed to the Chinese -Duolodomidi.
Last but not least we also met with Flower Ski School – one of the most professional domestic run operations we have seen this week. Run by Miss Flower (x National China Ski Team), the ski school and instructor training programme are in their fourth year of operation. Miss Flower and her school partner, March Ma, are running their operation out of Chongli too. All Flower Ski School senior instructors are x athletes and come from a competitive snowsports background from biathlon to Alpine, so their standards, discipline and performance are noticeably different out on the hill (more in a later blog).
Most of the domestic instructor training programmes are being supported by Associations like BASI, NZSIA, PSIA, Austria and Switzerland but Flower Snowsports were the only training operation that we have seen that is wholly Chinese. It remains to be seen who will emerge over the next few years as the Chinese snowsports instructor association but Miss Flower’s operation looks like a potential contender.
It’s a young industry out here, attracting astounding investment in resort infrastructure and the next few years are going to be chaotic and competitive as the market sorts itself out. I’ve been here just under a week and no-one can tell me how many bed spaces Chongli actually has, never mind all the resorts with ski-in, ski-out condos and hotels – the scale in mind blowing.
At 80 Euros a day for a lift ticket, snowsports is an expensive proposition and lessons costs are similar or higher to Europe, so learning to ski is a much more expensive proposition than we would recognise. That said, the Chinese are passionate about their snowsports and demand is visible and growing. It’s going to be a roller coaster ride!