China's ice-snow economy warms up, cools heatwave
Despite scorching heatwaves, Xiao Xiao, a post-90s woman, is comfortable in her winter coat. Her secret to enduring the sweltering summer is a "large refrigerator" in the form of an indoor ski resort.
"We really enjoy downhill skiing, especially from high places," said Xiao, adding that she made a special trip with two friends to Harbin, capital of Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, from her hometown in a neighboring province.
As many cities in China are hit by record-high temperatures this summer, ice and snow sports have become increasingly popular among residents looking to escape the broiling summer heat.
China has "popularized ice and snow sports from a small minority of people to the general public, from certain regions to the whole country, and from winter to the entire year", said Johan Eliasch, president of the International Ski Federation.
Ice and snow sports have been gaining steam in China following the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
In the summer, ice and snow sports in South China are no less popular than in the North because of the rapid development of indoor ice and snow facilities, said Sun Yi, a professor at the Physical Education College of Jilin University.
Since the beginning of summer, Zhang Wei, who lives in Shanghai, has taken his six-year-old son to an ice rink in Shaoxing, East China's Zhejiang province, several times, taking high-speed trains to make the day trip.
"More and more people flock to the ice rink in the summer and on weekends in recent years," said Zhang, adding that he often arranges family journeys to ski in more distant places like Changbai Mountain in Northeast China's Jilin province.
It is expected that China's ice and snow leisure sites will receive over 520 million visits, with its revenue exceeding 720 billion yuan during 2024-25, according to a report released by the China Tourism Academy.
The continuous development of ice and snow sports in China not only results from people's passion, but the consistent improvement of the facilities, said Zou Xinxian, director of the Winter Olympics culture research center at Beijing Sport University.
In 2016, the country issued a guidance to accelerate the construction of ice and snow facilities as part of efforts to popularize relevant sports and promote the development of relevant industries.
From 2016 to 2022, China invested about 2.88 trillion yuan in its infrastructure projects for ice and snow tourism. As of the end of 2022, nearly 9,000 relevant enterprises had registered in the ice and snow sector. In 2022 alone, 1,460 were newly added, up 20.1 percent year-on-year, said the report.
China has already reached its goal of engaging 300 million people in winter sports, but ice and snow facilities are still mushrooming across the country.
In Shanghai, an indoor ski resort covering over 90,000 square meters will open in the first half of 2024, while in South China's metropolis of Shenzhen, a tourism project with an "ice and snow world" theme and an investment of over 29.6 billion yuan will be put into use in November 2025.
In Jilin province, a pilot zone featuring the high-quality development of the ice and snow economy was set up in 2021, promoting the integration of winter sports and other local tourism resources including hiking trails in mountains, fruit picking gardens and fields of flowers.
"The improvement of ice and snow infrastructure can bolster consumer demand and attract capital inflows, benefiting the whole industrial chain," said Zou.
On July 8, Harbin was chosen by the Olympic Council of Asia to host the 2025 Asian Winter Games, and analysts believe that it will further ignite Chinese people's enthusiasm for winter sports.
The joy of playing in the snow is still fresh in Xiao's mind. In 2025, she hopes to ski in Heilongjiang again.