Untapped winter sports potential

By Mao Weihua in Urumqi and Chen Mengwei in Beijing | China Daily USA | Updated: 2017-02-17 12:25

Untapped winter sports potential

Enthusiasts say Xinjiang, where skiing may have been invented, offers some of the best snow in China

When people think of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region a great many things come to mind, from sweet fruits like the Hami melon to the scorching Gobi Desert.

But few realize that the region, in the northwest of China, boast some of the best skiing in the country.

Thanks to its high latitude it enjoys a long ski season, with snow for up to five months per year - surpassing more popular destinations such as Heilongjiang province.

As most of the ski resorts in Xinjiang are located close to cities, they offer convenient transportation options that save visitors' time. The temperature, meanwhile, rarely drops below -20 C.

Archaeologists consider the Altay prefecture of Xinjiang to be one of the first places that skiing was developed, with rock paintings hinting at aboriginals using skis about 10,000 years ago.

Some of the locals still employ similar equipment to their ancestors - skis, wrapped in horse skin, hacked out of a single piece of lightweight wood and a single pole instead of a pair, used as a kayaker would a paddle.

To keep this ancient form of skiing alive, Meng Fanjiang formed a team in Hemu village, near Kanas Lake, that now has more than 20 players age 18 to 40-plus.

They offer training to both locals and tourists, adults and children alike, aiming to offer a sense of how nomads got around thousands of years ago.

"Xinjiang has so much tourism potential. It should develop more snow programs to enrich the skiing business, so that more people will fall in love with the region," said Xu Ergang, a tourist from Chongqing.

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