By sportswriter Ji Jiadong
BEIJING, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- With the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games approaching, China's commitment to engage 300 million people in winter sports is becoming a reality.
This has led to a dramatic increase in China's skiing population, which in turn contributed to the notable growth of Chinese ski market. After years of development, China's ski resorts are making their way to the world's top travel destinations.
SOARING SKI POPULATION
According to Wu Bin, vice director of the Beijing Ski Association, China's ski industry has entered a stage of rapid development since 2011, and it has been accelerated by Beijing's successful Olympic bid.
"According to the statistics from 2014 to 2020, the number of ski resorts and the quality of facilities have been impressively improved. The number of skiers has risen from about 10 million in 2014 to more than 20 million in 2020, which is literally a 100% increase," Wu said.
Xu Xiujuan, a 31-year-old Harbin-native, was once a professional skateboarder with the national team and settled down in Xinjiang to promote the sport as a professional coach after retirement in 2019.
From then on, Xu has seen with her own eyes how fast the skiing population is growing. "Over the past three snow seasons, I definitely feel that the number of skiers is increasing faster and faster," she said.
"The free lessons we offer every weekend are packed with students. More and more children are signing up for snowboarding programs. Over the past two snow seasons, my team and I have trained more than 2,000 teenagers."
Jixue Ski Resort, located in Jilin City, northeast China's Jilin Province, has become the main venue for primary and secondary school students in the city to take skiing lessons in recent years.
"After winning the bid to host the Winter Olympics, the skier numbers have increased explosively," said Liang Gang, general manager of Jixue Ski Resort.
"Before, our customers were mainly adults, but now we see a wide age range from three or four to seventy or eighty, and teenagers have become the majority," he explained.
Wang Yuxiong, Director of the Sports Economics Research Center of the Central University of Finance and Economics, noted that the Winter Olympics has played a vital role in promoting and accelerating the development of China's ski industry.
"The campaign to engage 300 million people in winter sports has vastly enlarged the Chinese skiing population, which is the basis and fundamental driving force of the development of Chinese ski industry," Wang said.
BIG BRANDS ARE BOOMING
Li Longtai, executive vice president of Chongli Thaiwoo Ski Resort, witnessed the growth of Chongli, the largest high-end skiing industry cluster in China.
Li said that the number of guests using their own snowboards was less than 30 percent of the total when Thaiwoo Ski Resort opened in 2015.
"Currently, more than half of the guests bring their own gear, and the number of snowboarders has surpassed that of skiers," Li said.
"They basically bring their own suits and helmets, and many of them are fashionable. Young people have become the major consumers, which indicates that the market has been diversified and the consumption ability of the new generation has risen."
Noticing the rapid development of the Chinese ski market, major European and American ski brands have also followed the trend. German brand Bogner announced that it will establish a joint venture with the Chinese brand Bosideng, planing to establish about 80 stores in China within five years.
"As far as I know, foreign brands are very optimistic about the potential of China's ski market. I am afraid that any company with vision and ambition is unwilling to miss the opportunity," Wang said.
Wu stressed that from a global perspective, the ski markets in North America and Europe are developing relatively stably, but Japan and South Korea are in a downtrend.
"China's market is the only one with high growth, and it will contribute to global increase," Wu said.
POST-OLYMPIC CHALLENGES AND EXPECTATIONS
The North American ski sports brand SPYDER started business in the Chinese market in 2019. It currently focuses on first-and-second-tier cities, opening franchise stores mainly in the local mid-to-high-end shopping malls. They also deploy a number of ski specialty shops in China's northeastern provinces where skiing is popular.
"The upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics heats up people's enthusiasm for skiing, which benefits SPYDER a lot, as our revenue is rising steadily. We predict that the opening of the Winter Olympics can further ignite consumers' enthusiasm for skiing, and we hope that it will also 'detonate' our sales by then," said Zhang Weicheng, general manager of SPYDER China.
A large number of brands were attracted by the rosy future of the Winter Olympics. However, how the Chinese ski market can continue to develop healthily in the post-Winter Olympic time is of concern to many.
"The Winter Olympics have brought significant benefits to the ski industry," said Jiang Yihai, vice chairman of the Heilongjiang Ski Association.
"I think the ski fields should possess a global perspective to shift into world-class ski tourism resorts. Management must be up to international standards and they should cooperate with international brands."
Wu believes that the market will return to its original state of development after the Winter Olympics, which means speculative capital may leave the market.
"We should make full use of the effect of the Olympic Winter Games to popularize the ski sports and cultivate professional talents," said Zhang Shouwei, Dean of the School of Physical Education of Northeast Normal University.
"In addition, we should strengthen comprehensive strategic planning of the industry and improve on the market-led system to promote development entire industrial chain," he added. Enditem