Ski towns have an unmistakeable identity, and an easy-to-sniff-out air. Seeing a group of stoned snowboard bros, you’ll know you’re in Colorado. Catching a table of French folks chuckling over cups of local hot chocolate, you might know you’re in the Swiss Alps.
One town you might have forgotten to throw onto your list is Chongli, a small county outside Beijing. And you’d be forgiven for that oversight — Chongli has no real history of skiing to speak of (although China as a whole might somehow have the all-time greatest claim to ski history).
But when Beijing was announced as the site of the 2022 Winter Olympics, everything changed.
We all know how Beijing gets with Olympic attention. Residents were moved out to make room for resort grounds, huge-scale lift construction projects went underway, and the municipal government hauled ass to get young people interested in sliding around on plastic sticks.
But overall, it seems to be going kind of well.
“[My son] thinks Chongli is great, and would like to come back to work, but maybe after some exchange programs to the West,” Chongli local Liu Juan told That’s Beijing. “A lot of families here are in the same situation. My friend’s son just graduated high school, and started working as a ski coach.”
“In the past, there was nothing to do in the wintertime. Now people can improve their income,” adds Benny Wu, chief strategy officer of Vanke Group’s ski resort devision.
“Chongli is still being developed, so there aren’t many big companies, but I think there’ll be more developers here in future, so there’ll be more job opportunities,” Chongli-born student Li Yonghao told Channel NewsAsia.
Of course, that doesn’t mean there’s no other side to the coin. Locals complain of surging real estate prices, swarming masses of out-of-towners, and the general ceding of their hometown to the blizzard of Winter Olympic preparations.
But for a town that not so long ago suffered from serious poverty, the economic boom is still well-received. All we can do is wait to see how the scene comes together for the 2022 games, and the years that follow.