Backed by Italian investors and in operation since 2006, the resort in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, is yet to record a profit. Fabio Ries, co-founder and chairman of the board of Duolemeidi Mountain Resort, says a lack of real snow, bad weather and China’s lack of a ski culture make the country a difficult proposition.
But despite this predicament, which the Chinese Ski Association says most of the country’s 20 resorts are in, more and more developers are adopting the above formula and pushing on for success.
The logic behind their optimism ties in with the overall growth of the Chinese economy and the rapidly expanding middle classes. As the Chinese have more wealth, they’re seeking healthy lifestyles and recreational holidays, and developers are banking on this growth rocketing.
Liu Xiaoshan, chairman of the board of the Qiaoshan Group of Beijing, which is developing the Beidahu resort, one of China’s largest ski resorts, is confident about the prospects.
“The development of the leisure industry moves into top gear when a country's per capita GDP reaches $3,000, which China has already achieved. Experiences from other countries all demonstrate that.”
In the US, just 2 million people visited ski fields in 1962, but by the 1980s the figure had climbed to 50 million.
The Chinese Ski Association said there were just 20,000 visits to the country’s ski fields in 1996. By 2010, that figure had risen to 10 million, a 500-fold increase. The association estimates the number will have doubled to 20 million by 2014.
From the bullish confidence of the resort developers, they will be ready and waiting to greet these new skiers with open arms.