By Chris Anthony www.chrisanthony.com
Sending out an SOS: Chinese ski resort a wild ride for beginners
January 30, 2008 —
We arrived at the Jundushan Resort outside Beijing following an intense day of being tourists.
We woke up to an overcast, polluted Beijing day, which turns out to be very normal here, then headed to the restaurant on the hotel level and had one of the best breakfast buffets I have ever come across. I highly recommend Xinhai Jinjiang Hotel (www.hotelxinhaijinjiang.com) should you ever head to Beijing.
Our guide gathered us and took us to the Forbidden City. Unreal! It was built more than 600 years ago during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The history is far too detailed to even begin to go into it, so Iíll leave that part up you, but when I get home Iím renting the movie ďThe Last Emperor.Ē
The tour was detailed and very cold. Considering we only had two hours to see the city, I would say we did very well. Then we grabbed some lunch and headed to one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Great Wall of China (see photo).
This portion of the wall is just off a major highway and hit by a ton of tourists judging from the parking area. But on this day no one was there except for a few hardcore Chinese willing to climb the steep wall on this bitterly cold day.
Let me tell you, hiking the wall makes running stadium steps look easy. It was a workout, and the Chinese women were doing it in heels and tight jeans. I mean, this was extreme, as every step was uneven and a slip would mean a fatal fall down several hundred feet of the ancient rock staircase.
We climbed to the highest portion of this section of the wall, and it was amazing! To think about this structure being built, why it was built and when it was built is mind-boggling.
After our tour of the Great Wall we jumped back in the van and headed to the resort of Jundushan. From the haze and just beyond the thousands of utility lines carved into the arid mountains arose a manmade strip of snow that descended steeply from a ridge down to a base area surrounded by perfectly designed beginner terrain.
It is a day resort with a few cabins but mainly designed for beginners, or, for that matter, anyone willing to strap something to their feet and just go for a slide.
The way they run the place is like and amusement park. You pay to come in the main gate, and once you are in you can get all the gear you need to go up one of the lifts and tempt fate. When you leave the gate, the time clock stops and you pay your bill.
We were greeted by the owner and operator, Ping He, and his 20-year-old English-speaking daughter (families in China are strongly encouraged to have only one child). Neither one of them has ever been to another ski area in their lives. Yet Mr. He managed to build and design a small beginner ski area with one expert slope out of his pure passion for the sport.
Even more fascinating about this snow oasis was the fact it is located less than an hour away from a population of 60 million people. The area is smaller than Loveland Valley in Colorado and can host more than 5,000 skiers a day if needed. And it has been known to do so several times a week.
Most customers rent all of their equipment from head to toe then go up the lift without a bit of instruction other than from one of the many employees yelling orders on a bullhorn at the bottom of the hill - mainly telling people to just get out of the way.
Just beyond them is a series of nets to catch out-of-control beginners that overshoot the run-out and would otherwise fly into the moat just beyond the base lodge.
But it rarely happens that they hit this net, as the runs are designed like a sledding hill in that you run out of momentum before you reach the series of nets. So the excitement is in watching the beginnerís stripe on the equipment head to the top, straight run the slope and collide with another striped beginner.
You can watch this happen every few minutes from the safety of the bar, or behind one of the nets. This is exciting stuff, let me tell you, and the best part is that if an injury should happen (which amazingly enough does not happen all that often), it is not the ski patrol that you call. The men to the rescue in this case are the SOS.
On that note, everyone pitches in on clearing traffic. Better than I-70, if a pileup occurs, employees come running from all directions to clear the skier and the route instead of waving the yellow flag. In the case of the one expert run that is too steep to be groomed but consists purely of manmade snow, if a skier falls or does not show the skill to get to the bottom, the men of the SOS just take their equipment away and make them walk or slide down to the base on their butts.
This is survival of the fittest, and the best part is they are all watching and loving it. The entire time Iím surveying this scene Iím thinking about the escalators we have to the base of Beaver Creek, and the slow zone we have designed.
Another absolutely amazing part of the base area is its design of the rental system. Again, without ever even visiting another ski resort, Mr. He managed to build one of the best ski and clothing rental systems I have ever seen at any ski area. Ironically, at this level there are several things the worldís more established ski areas could learn from the rawness of the Jundushan resort.
This is passion to the core, and it could someday be the largest feeder program into the ski industry on our planet right now Ė as I learned today watching from the base.
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