Wanlong ski resort hopes to cash in on 2022 Winter Olympics bid
When he joined a one-week skiing course with his son at a Chongli county resort northwest of Beijing, Wang Gang learned that the region was seeking to co-host the 2022 Winter Olympics with the nation's capital.
"I just know that the ski trail is good," he says. Wang and his son Qinqin were in a ski tour for beginners. They trained at the Wanlong Ski Resort. The seven children were all about six years old. Wang says a local tour agent sold them on the experience.
"I want my son to learn a challenging sport and to be able to get along and compete with other children," he says. "Still, when his knees hurt, he begs me to take him home."
The ski tour is not cheap. The price for one parent and one child is 13,000 yuan (HK$16,700). As a college lecturer, Wang can just afford the trip.
The Chinese middle class has flocked to high-cost sports, says Li He, manager of marketing and development at the ski resort.
As one of the early investors in Chongli county, Wanlong, meaning ten thousand dragons, was the largest local ski resort for almost a decade. In 2012, Malaysia-based Genting Group opened Genting Resort Secret Garden, now the area's largest. Chinese investors built other ski resorts.
Li said the ski business required a long-term investment and that returns were low. Wanlong Ski Resort, in its tenth year and drawing 70,000 unique visitors annually, just broke even. "We are hoping that by hosting the Winter Olympics, we can attract more customers," he says.
Whether the business can grow depends on whether it can attract customers from Beijing.
Wanlong charges more than 10,000 yuan for a season-long ski pass. The resort has attracted snow lovers from Europe, Canada, the US, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Briton Richard Boon works at Wanlong as an instructor. He has been skiing and snowboarding since the age of six. He says the earlier children start training, the better athletes they will become.
"Kids around four or five years old. That is the best time to grab them for training."