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China Hits the Slopes Ahead of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

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The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics are just weeks away from kicking off, and it appears the hype surrounding the international sporting event has led to an uptick of interest in skiing and skiing vacations in China.

According to a report by Trip.com Group, a Chinese multinational online travel company, bookings at ski hotels in the Chinese mainland increased by 73% in December 2021 compared to the previous month, with 45% of traveling skiers choosing short-haul accommodation options (hotels located within 300 kilometers of a vacationer’s residence).

Additionally, bookings to ski resorts in the Chinese mainland rose six-fold between December 20 and January 1, 2022. Perhaps unsurprisingly, young people seem to be propelling the trend.

“Millennials have been the driving force behind ski resort ticket bookings, while in 2021, bookings from ski lovers born after 2000 saw the fastest increase compared to other age groups,” notes Trip.com Group’s report.

First look at Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 - National Alpine Skiing Center

The National Alpine Skiing Center, the site of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics at Xiaohaituo Mountain in Beijing

China’s netizens also seem more interested in skiing-related content. Online searches for ‘Winter Olympic Games’ on Ctrip, a sub-brand of Trip.com Group, doubled in December compared to November.

Online traffic to content tagged ‘skiing’ increased by 39% in Q4 2021 compared to the same period in 2020 on Trip.com Group’s Ctrip Community, while the volume of user-generated content tagged ‘skiing’ jumped a staggering 224% year-on-year in Q4 and 67% compared to Q3.

According to a representative from the Chinese lifestyle platform Xiaohongshu, searches for the keywords ‘skiing’ and ‘snowboarding’ rose by 214% in November 2021 compared with the previous year.

The spike of interest in skiing is likely welcome news to the politicians and Olympic planners in Beijing — particularly Chinese President Xi Jinping, who in 2015 stated that holding the Winter Games would “encourage more than 1.3 billion Chinese to engage in winter sports with interest and passion.”

Beijing Winter Olympics

The National Alpine Skiing Center

Since it was announced that Beijing would be the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games, Xi has launched a campaign to get 300 million people involved in winter sports by 2025.

And while we are unsure how close the Chinese government is to realizing this lofty goal, there have been some remarkable accomplishments in the past half-decade.

For one, the number of ski resorts in China was 770 at the end of 2019, up from 460 in 2016. Also, at the end of 2020, 2,000 primary and secondary schools in the country had integrated winter sports activities into their curriculum.

Heck, one high school in Shanghai even constructed an underground ice-skating rink and has invited former ice sports pros to coach its students.

In addition to government support and the hype that reliably engulfs Olympic host countries prior to the start of the Games (the author can personally attest to this latter point, having attended the 2010 Games in Vancouver), Chinese skiing has perhaps received a boost from Team China member and freestyle skiing phenom Eileen Gu.

American-born Gu, whose mother hails from China, announced in 2019 that she would be competing internationally for China, and she will be hitting the slopes for the host nation in Beijing next month. She recently capped off the Freestyle Ski World Cup season with her first crystal globe win and is a medal favorite for the 2022 Games.

In the lead-up to the Beijing Winter Olympics, Gu is becoming a household name in China: Her face adorns advertising billboards in many major Chinese cities, state-backed media outlets can’t get enough of her, and she boasts 1.3 million followers on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo.

All images via Depositphotos

Matthew Bossons
Matt is RADII's managing editor. He is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with a passion for history, untold stories and scuba diving. Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Matt has worked as a journalist in China for over half a decade and has had work published in major Chinese media outlets and international publications. He has previously lived in Guangzhou and Beijing.
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