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In China, winter is no longer just about big dinners with family and late night mahjong. China’s ski market is entering a golden period with millions of ski fans. Why China, a country with a limited ski tradition, is fast becoming the new wonderland for ski companies.
Wearing colorful waterproof designer jackets against a temperature of minus 10 Celsius, carrying latest season’s skis and snowboards, and hurtling downhill at a high-end resort in Northeastern China, this is typically how China’s emerging ski elite spend a winter weekend.
“I love Lake Songhua Resort. This is so great. The instructors are very excellent. They have fast cable cars here,” said Alisa, a ski fan from Jilin.
“In the winter if you don’t ski, it’ll be such a waste. Now more and more people ski in the winter, and prices have come down with more ski resorts being built. I’m glad to see upgrades of facilities and services,” said a snowboarder from Changchun.
This new high-end place to go is Lake Songhua Resort which just opened this winter. Located in Jilin Province, the resort was built by China’s biggest real estate developer Vanke.
China’s ski market started in the 90s, but only hit the fast speed trail in 2010, with a number of big resorts being built. Since then, skiers have expanded from 2 hundred thousand to 5 million, with an annual growth rate estimated at 30 percent. How can businesses miss such an opportunity!
On the snow, timing is crucial when you’re trying to turn. If you turn too early, you’ll fall. If you turn late, you’ll also fall. This is also true for business. Timing is equally important for any businesses that are trying to tap into China’s burgeoning ski market.
So is now good timing for ski businesses? I talk to Isral Maynard, the China chief of Burton, the world’s No.1 snowboard maker.
Burton officially set up its business in China three years ago and sales have since jumped like this, and this and this!
So what’s the growth rate for Burton in China?
“We are targeting 50 percent growth this year,” said Israel Maynard, managing director of Burton China.
I also asked Canadian resort planner Ecosign about the timing of investing in China’s ski market.
“The timing I think right now is very exciting. The economy is going so strong. People now have disposible income to spend on life style tourism. Social media also plays a big role. People are communicating with each other so quickly and so easily and pictures of a ski resort can in a second reach all over in China,” said Ryley Thiessen, VP of Resort Design, Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners.
Since 2010, hundreds of ski resorts have emerged all over the country. Among them, big resorts include Wanlong, Genting Secret Garden in Heibei Province, Vanke Lake Songhua Resort, Beidahu and Wanda Changbai Mountain in Jilin Province. Yabuli Club Med is in Heilongjiang Province. And investment is becoming bigger.
“By now the investments in ski resorts have reached 1.2 billions RMB. 34 ski trails make this ski resort one of the biggest in China,” said Ding Changfeng, vice president of Vanke Group.
New businesses have also emerged. See this man holding a camera? His name is Shen Du. He’s a professional visual artist on the slopes. He’s very popular among hardcore ski fans.
“My customers want me to take photos and videos on the snow for good memories and for improving their skills. They are mostly high education and high income people. Also some parents want to keep video records of their children,” said Shen Du, visual artist of Shendu Media.
Now the Chinese ski market is gaining downhill speed, but as more competitors enter the winter game, an uphill battle for a slice of the ski business is in full swing.