The land of ice and snow
Updated: 2012-11-23 07:39
Skiers on the piste at the Yabuli International Ski Resort. Provided to China Daily
The popularity of skiing has snowballed in recent years and harbin in northern China has embraced the surge
The birthplace of skiing, with a proud history and an eclectic mix of culture, Harbin, in northern China's Heilongjiang province, is an ideal location to experience the Chinese piste.
It is believed the first forms of skiing began here as early as 600BC. Today the sport is experiencing something of a renaissance in China, and with snow 150 and 200 days a year, it's not surprising that Harbin is at its center.
The city also boasts a rather cosmopolitan history. It was the birthplace of both the Jin (1115-1234) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasties. Towards the end of the 19th century Russia built the terminus of the Chinese Eastern Railway here helping to fuel economic growth.
During the late 1900s, Harbin became a well-known international commercial port and home to more than 160,000 foreign residents from 33 countries. This multicultural history has left Harbin with an interesting legacy of colonial architecture, including the beautiful St. Sofia Orthodox Church.
The city is also famous for its ice and snow sculpture festival, which attracts thousands of visitors each year from China and abroad.
For those heading to Harbin for a ski vacation, here are some of the top places to visit.
1. Yabuli International Ski Resort
One of the biggest and best ski resorts in China, Yabuli, which is 200 kilometers east of downtown Harbin, was the hunting ground of Chinese emperors during the Qing Dynasty.
It's known for having good skiing conditions, high mountains and snow that is neither powdery nor hard.
The resort has snow, on average, for around 170 days a year, usually lasting from November to April.
It is also the largest training center for alpine skiers in China and has been host to many skiing competitions, including the 3rd Asian Winter Games and 24th World University Winter Games.
Aside from skiing, the resort has a range of other facilities, including a mini golf course, tennis courts, hot air balloons and paragliding.
2. Erlongshan or Longzhu (dragon pearl) Ski Resort
Located 65 kilometers west of Harbin, this ski resort has become popular as a host to festivals and international freestyle skiing competitions.
It includes two trails for beginners, six for intermediate and advanced skiers and the first children's ski slope in China.
The resort's total area is around 780,000 square meters and includes a pristine lake enclosed by two mountain ranges.
At the center of the lake is a small island and the scene is said to resemble two dragons eating a pearl, which is where the resort gets its name.
The surrounding countryside makes Erlongshan a popular destination for both the winter ski season and year round.
3. Harbin Moon Bay Ski Field
Covering 200,000 square meters, this resort offers a host of activities besides skiing, including horse and sled riding.
For something a little different, it also offers night skiing.
4. Eurasian Window Ski Field
Located in the Harbin Window of Eurasia Theme Park, this ski resort includes two runs, one for beginners and another for intermediate skiers.
Set among pine trees, it is an all-inclusive destination that also offers sightseeing, entertainment and a gym.
Influenced by Russian, Mongolian and Korean food, Harbin cuisine is very international compared with most of China.
Khleb, a kind of Russian bread, is popular. With a hard crust and soft, fragrant inside, it is ideal for carrying with you on a hiking or skiing trip.
Another Harbin favorite is hong chang (smoked red sausage). Made with lean meat, it comes covered in a thin layer of charcoal dust, from being smoked over wood. The sauage between khleb makes an ideal sandwich.
Because of its long winters, hot barbecue and hotpot meals are also popular in the city.
(China Daily 11/23/2012 page22)