Too cold? Head for the hills

Snowboarding is big on the slopes outside Beijing, says Helen Gilchrist

Flat, generally snowless, and one of the most polluted cities in the world, Beijing may not seem like the most obvious – or desirable – place to go skiing. But for those finding themselves here in winter, when the biting cold can prove just too much to bear for wandering around the city's famous palaces, temples and gardens, donning the skiwear and venturing beyond the city limits to check out China's budding snow scene can be a great day out.

Flat, generally snowless, and one of the most polluted cities in the world, Beijing may not seem like the most obvious – or desirable – place to go skiing. But for those finding themselves here in winter, when the biting cold can prove just too much to bear for wandering around the city's famous palaces, temples and gardens, donning the skiwear and venturing beyond the city limits to check out China's budding snow scene can be a great day out.

Weaving through the donkeys, buses, bicycles and trucks on the edge of the city, it hardly feels like being on the way to the slopes. Flat, wide roads, brown fields, factories and gleaming new blocks replace the winding mountain passes, hairpin bends and distant snow-covered peaks that characterise the start of a more conventional ski trip.

An hour north of Beijing, the gleaming white slopes of Nanshan Ski Village come into view amid the surrounding bare, brown hills. Like the handful of smaller, "resorts" scattered in the hills around Beijing, Nanshan uses artificial snow. The region's extreme cold and dry winter climate means there is very little precipitation, but the conditions are ideal for making good quality artificial stuff. And here, outside the city – near the Great Wall of China – the air is fresh, clear and almost smog-free.

But don't expect any deep powder turns – or, in fact, much of the scenery pictured in the resort's publicity material. Rules on such descriptions seem to go out the window in China, as miles of high, powder-covered peaks and Alpine log cabins cover the brochure's pages. "From the cafeteria with French windows made of glass, one can look far into the snow-capped mountains," it says. Well, maybe if you've just eaten the "magic cake" served in the Terrace Restaurant and Pub...

Nanshan opened in 2001. The resort's facilities are some of the most advanced in China, with fast, efficient lifts. There are eight different trails; the two longest combine to offer a mile-long run. As most Chinese skiers are novices, the beginners' slope and easy runs make up most of the resort. Although there is a short "expert" trail, advanced skiers would get bored before too long here.

But boarders have it made. Nanshan leads the way in China's budding snowboard scene and boasts the country's first international-standard halfpipe, a mini snowboard park, China's first snowboarding school (lead by an Austrian instructor), and an incredibly friendly atmosphere. Boarding has taken off in China only this winter, so the vibe on the slopes is fresh and attitude-free. Nanshan recently hosted a "slopestyle" competition, the first in the People's Republic, which had never seen such high standards and enthusiasm in the sport before. Anything goes: riders eagerly attack the jump and see what happens.

Whooping, screaming, and laughing echo across the slopes as Chinese skiers struggle with the drag lifts, tie themselves in knots and bomb down the hill wobbling, while others demonstrate a smooth style – impressive in a nation where skiing is still in its infancy. Ten years ago, only an estimated 200 people had ever skied in China; now, about a million take it up at the country's resorts each winter. Next season, starting at the end of November, is set to be bigger: in April, construction begins on new runs, a four-person chairlift, and extensions to the snowboard park.

A day pass at Nanshan (00 86 10 6445 0990, www.nanshanski.com) costs about £30 including ski clothing and equipment (40 per cent less if you have your own gear)

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Geena Davis, founder and chair of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media
tv
News
Alan Bennett criticised the lack of fairness in British society encapsulated by the private school system
peopleBut he does like Stewart Lee
Sport
John Terry, Frank Lampard
footballChelsea captain sends signed shirt to fan whose mum had died
Arts and Entertainment
Rita Ora will replace Kylie Minogue as a judge on The Voice 2015
tv
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Life and Style
life
Arts and Entertainment
Tennis player Andy Murray's mum Judy has been paired with Anton du Beke for Strictly Come Dancing. 'I'm absolutely delighted,' she said.
tvJudy Murray 'struggling' to let Anton Du Beke take control on Strictly
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Manager

    £50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Affiliate Marketing Manager / Affiliate Mana...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Day In a Page

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits