China now has 742 ski areas, according to Wu Bin, author of the country’s annual ‘White book.’
Depending on how you determine what constitutes a ‘ski area’, this may be the most of any country in the world.
However what constitutes a ski area in China is different to most other countries. The vast majority of these areas are fairly flat centres the size of a football field with one or two conveyor lifts and a few snowmaking machines.
There are only 149 chairlifts in the country and most of these are located at a small number of larger destination areas.
Despite the ongoing political drive to grow winter sports ahead of hosting the next Winter Olympics in 2022, enthusiasm for skiing and snowboarding does seem to be slowing a little compared to the phenomenal growth rate of the past five years.
The number of new ski areas in only up 5.55
Away from conventional ski areas however the number of dry slopes, indoor snow halls and ski simulator machines continues to grow rapidly.
There are now 26 indoor snow centres including five new in the past year – this figure is more than three times as many as any other country and about a third of the world total. They also include the world’s current largest centre.
The number of ski simulators machines more than doubled from 69 in 2017 to 145 now, more than the total for the rest of the world combined.
“This is an absolutely typical approach for China,” Wu said in an interview with ISPO.com “From the investors’ point of view, it’s not just about winter sports, but also about factors such as a shopping mall or restaurants. So the ski hall is sometimes more a means to an end, and if the ski hall no longer makes a profit, then the project is simply finished.”
Although investment in new conventional ski areas maybe slowing the number of Chinese people trying snowsports continue to grow at double digit rates, Wu reports.
In 2018, China recorded an increase from 17.5 to 19.7 million people (12.6%, compared to 16% in 2017). Another 1.4 million ski on dry slopes and simulators.