China’s rapid expansion in its number of ski areas and ski days has stalled according to the newly released 2022-2023 China Ski Industry White Book by local expert Wu Bin (Benny Wu).

Other than a dramatic drop in the first winter of the pandemic, it’s the first decline in numbers in over 25 winters of season-on-season growth that have seen China develop from having just a handful of ski areas and skier numbers in the low thousands to becoming one of the world’s major ski nations in terms of ski area and skier numbers.

It particularly excels in indoor snow and dry ski centres which have been built in the greater part of the country where natural snowfall doesn’t occur but here most of the world’s second biggest national population live.

The report notes that skier numbers declined overall in 2022-23 and that more new indoor snow centres opened than outdoor areas after a period when the country was adding up to 11 new ski areas each year before the start of the pandemic.

Much of the growth was driven by Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics with China’s president asking 350 million Chinese to give ice or snow sports ago ahead of the Games.  Observers of China’s ski industry had been interested in seeing whether momentum continued after the Games.

However declining skier numbers in much of the country (they’re up in a few key ski regions) appear to be more tied to China’s pandemic lockdowns which continued here after they’d ended in much of the rest of the world.

The 2022-2023 China Ski Industry White Book, which covers the season directly after the Winter Olympics season, notes that thirteen new resorts were put into operation in China, but that eight of these were indoor ski centres, of which China now has more than 50.  More than four times more than any other country has ever operated and including the world’s three largest centres.

The report puts the number of ski areas in China at 705, eight of which were reported temporarily closed.  This is similar to the numbers reached in the past in countries like Austria, Japan and the USA, before the markets at each matured and smaller centres closed down. In China most centres are small with only 166 having chairlifts or gondolas.

The report notes that official data puts the total number of ski areas in China at 876 but that further research found that some regions were including children’s snow play areas or ski simulator machines as ‘ski areas’. It had been hoped that China would hit 1,000 ski areas by the end of 2022.

The total number of skier visits also dropped back below 20 million from 21.54 million in the Olympics winter to 19.83 million last winter, a decrease of neatly 8%. Benny Wu notes though that December 2022 and January 2023 were particularly bad for the pandemic, severely impacting the number of people going skiing.  The numbers skiing also dropped from just over 12 million to just over 11 million, Wu calculates.

Stats for coming seasons will be interesting with lockdowns now apparently behind the Chinese population and the country having recently agreed to stage the 2025 Asian Winter Games.