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Published: March 16th 2011
Having 'snowboarded' at the furthest south you can go in China before hitting the sea, it would seem like the logical thing to try to snowboard at the northern most point as well. Because of the -35 degree weather, the broken bone, and the lack of feasible access to that part of the Russian border, I didn't do anything like that, so sorry for the anti-climax.
In January, when Hainan University broke up for two months for the Chinese New Year mega-holdiay, I dusted off my warm clothing, tipped the sand out of my snowboard boots and took a plane with Simon, who had been visiting me on photography missions. We arrived in Beijing and went directly to an international snowboard competition that was being held at a nearby ski hill. These little resorts near Beijing have everything you expect of a ski resort except for natural snow and mountains. The snow is almost 100% made by canons, but the construction of the park was good enough for some of the best boarders from around the world to be there, happily competing with local Chinese riders.
I should explain that this two month 'season' was a bit of a
dream for me, because I have been curious for so long to find out as much as I can about the Chinese ski industry, partly for my university research and partly for future career ideas. I won't bore you with everything I found out, but if anyone is curious about a certain aspect of skiing in China, get in touch!
How did I spend my 'season'? On the second day there I turned up at resort, still unable to snowboard because of the bone, I hung around talking to people and was quickly introduced to a guy running a company involved in everything from running ski trips to designing resorts to providing ski lifts and snow canons. He offered me a job instructing snowboarding and skiing. The conditions of the job were perfect for my little exploratory mission because it involved taking Chinese kids on 'winter camps' from Beijing to different resorts. It meant that my living, transport, ski passes, food, everything was free and at the same time I got to ski and check out all these new places, become familiar with the resorts whilst also practising Chinese. Instructing was a good way of not risking re-breaking my
it's amazing how quickly they put all these booths up
with about 20 hardworking Chinese working away on each booth, it all gets made from nothing in about 2 days, ready for important business meetings and stuff
bone, as I was never tempted to do anything crazy or dangerous on the slopes.
In the last week I found completely separate temporary work at 'ispo China', an outdoor sports goods trade show held in the Olympic village. I chose to work there because it was a great way of meeting all kinds of people involved in the industry, and I was also assigned as coordinator of a conference on topics concernint ski resort management, which I could sit in on and learn a lot from.
On the very last night before flying back to Hainan, I took part in a night-time freestyle competition near Beijing, which had a great atmosphere and felt like being back in a European snowboarding scene, with a mad house party on the slope afterwards, an MC battle and, above all, finally a chance to get that feeling of flying through the air again, after a long time having to fear every turn in case an out-of-control Chinese stockbroker on skis slammed into my soft shoulder. All in all, I'm amazed how well the season went, how much information I learned and took back, how many great people and good friends I
met, how smoothly and easily I was given work, and how exciting and funny the whole Chinese snow world is.
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