Hunker down, alpine brats: looks like China might be able to claim skiing, in addition to golf.

Reuters reporter Natalie Thomas has the story, complemented with stunning photographs by Jason Lee of skiing culture in Altay in the northern region of Xinjiang province. Thomas writes:

Cave paintings discovered in Altay – today home to a mixture of ethnic Tuvans and Kazakhs – show rows of figures standing on what look like skis, with herds of animals running below them.

Archaeologists have dated the paintings as 10,000 to 30,000 years old, according to Chinese ski historian Shan Zhaojian.

That would date them as much older than archaeological findings of skiing in Russia, cited by the International Ski Federation, the sport’s governing body, as coming from 6,300 to 5,000 BC.

“It’s the earliest in the world that’s for sure,” said Shan. “I’ve got a total of 10 pieces of evidence that can prove this.”

“China is keen to cash in on this historical connection,” Thomas continues. We think it’s a safe bet that in addition to figuring out how to manufacture the tons of snow that greater Beijing will need by 2022, we’re also in for a series of gung ho ads touting “30,000 years of Chinese skiing” before too long.

Will keep you posted on that situation as it develops. In the mean time, tune in to Reuters’ stunning photo essay on Altay ski culture right here: Skiing’s origins in China’s remote west.

Read more:

Today in Things that Are and Aren’t From China: Golf, Pandas

Cover image: Horse hair skis in Hemu, Altay, Xinjiang (YouTube)