The sun’s out, the weather is warming up, and the ice is melting. It’s time to say goodbye to the 2012-2013 snowboarding season. For the past three years, I’ve been saying that I wanted to check out Beijing’s nearby ski resorts, and I finally did this year. In fact, I went to three different resorts. Of course, this is China, and I use the word “resort” loosely. This country’s got a lot of catching up to do when it comes to attracting visitors to their slopes and ski lodges. I mean, seriously, what kind of “ski resort” doesn’t even offer hot chocolate? (to those who just think I’m culturally insensitive now, I’m just kidding…but honestly, nothing goes better with a full day of snowboarding than sitting down with a mug of steaming hot chocolate afterwards) Anyway, here’s the lowdown on each of the ski resorts I checked out:
Huaibei Ski Resort
This was supposed to be a romantic 2-day getaway for Alex and I over the New Year’s break. It was also his first experience snowboarding, though I don’t think he got a very good first impression. The 2-day part was also cut short when the hotel we were going to stay at basically told us not to come because we would be the only guests, and there was no heat. Yeah…we were back on a bus to Beijing that same day. Back to the actual ski resort. We got a deal online for 210RMB per person, which included the lift ticket and a round trip bus. The trip took about an hour and a half, with the bus leaving at 8am from Dongzhimen. When we got there, we paid a 600RMB deposit (300 per person, so make sure to bring enough cash) and then got a card which we swiped to get a ski jacket and pants. The whole process was simple enough, though it was a bit hard to get dressed with the crowd in the locker area. We went on a holiday, which would explain it.
Mostly we stayed on the intermediate slope, which merges on the bottom into the bunny slope (beginner). I definitely got a workout that day, not just from boarding, but from walking up the hill. That’s right…we walked up the hill every single time. It took a little less than 10 minutes to walk up, and about a minute or less to come back down. The alternative, and the only other way to get up the hill, was a rope tow, which was really designed for skiers. There’s a rope with a disc on the end, and you put the rope between your legs and it pulls you up the hill. Easy enough for skiers, but everyone that tried with a snowboard ended up eating snow before they really got anywhere. Something I wish we’d stayed for, but didn’t, is the night skiing. The Huaibei resort is right next to the Mutianyu part of the Great Wall, and you can actually see parts of the wall as you board. At night, it’s lit up and even more beautiful. I guess we’ll try again next year. With regards to food, I’d suggest you bring your own. The menu was quite pricey and not so appetizing: my dumplings were 35RMB and Alex’s soup noodles were about 48RMB.
Would I go again? I’d go for the night skiing and view of the Great Wall. I didn’t try out the more advanced slopes, so my experience might have been tainted by the fact that I had to walk up the intermediate slope every time, whereas the advanced slopes have cable cars going up the hill.
Ticket price: 210RMB incl. equipment rental and round-trip bus on a holiday (keep in mind this may vary, check website for current prices)
Ski suit rental: 30RMB (jacket and pants)
Locker rental: 10RMB
Hours: 8:30am-5pm, 4:30pm-9:30pm (night ski)
Wanlongbayi Ski Resort
I went to Wanlongbayi with my company for a ski day, which meant that everything was pretty much taken care of. The HR team even packed us each a little lunch bag so we wouldn’t have to buy anything there. I’d say that out of the three resorts, this one had my favorite intermediate slope. It was the widest, and was steeper on the top part of the hill but not too flat on the bottom. Also, unlike Huaibei, there was a cable car to take you to the top. The ride was not too long, so my coworkers and I were able to go down quite a few times. We went on a Friday, so it wasn’t too crowded. This one was the closest of the three, and it only took us a little over an hour to get there. Though we didn’t buy lunch, the menu looked much cheaper than at Huaibei. Noodles were around 16-20RMB, and my coworker bought an ear of corn for 5RMB.
Would I go again? Yes, definitely. I’d go for the wide intermediate slope, which was also the longest of the three. There were also a variety of advanced slopes, which some of my more experienced coworkers seemed to enjoy. It’s a quick ride to the top and a nice ride coming down. I also appreciate how close it is to the city.
Ticket price: 180RMB incl. equipment rental on Mon-Fri, 280RMB incl. equipment rental on Sat-Sun
Ski suit rental: 30RMB (jacket and pants)
Locker rental: 10RMB
Hours: 9:30am-4pm, 5:30pm-11pm (night ski)
Yulongwan Ski Resort
Out of the three, this one has the most potential. I was surprised when I got there, though, because it’s still in construction (the area around the slopes), yet they opened this year to let skiers and snowboarders in. Since it’s the first year, the prices are cheaper now, but expect the prices to raise considerably by next year. I was shocked when Alex suggested going snowboarding again, since I was under the impression that he’d had a horrible first time. This time, we boarded the resort’s bus at Agricultural Exhibition Center exit A (Line 10) and left around 7:30am. The trip took an hour and a half and is actually in the neighboring province of Hebei, not Beijing. From what I could see so far, and with the visual aid of giant marketing billboards, it seems like this one really will be an all-inclusive resort. European-style villas (I could just be talking out of my butt, maybe they’re just regular villas) are being built alongside the slopes. The first thing Alex said when he saw them was “Let’s buy one!” Haha…it’s nice to have dreams.
The nice thing about Yulongwan is that it’s new, which means the equipment is pretty new as well. The snowboard boots were incredibly light and comfortable, and the snowboards didn’t have the wear and tear that the other ones had. One gripe I had was that the ski resort doesn’t really have an intermediate slope. There’s a beginner slope and several scary advanced slopes. Oh also…something to note is that the levels of the slopes in China aren’t as clearly marked as the ones in the US. So my judgment of whatever level it is is based either on my experience riding it (whether or not I thought I was going to die) or just a visual appraisal. We tried the beginner slope for a bit. You go up by riding on a “magic carpet,” a moving conveyor belt. But the ride felt like forever. I didn’t time it, but it felt like a nearly 10 minute ride up the magic carpet. That magic carpet could’ve used some fast and furious-style NOS. The advanced slopes were not very long, and mostly just very steep without any turns, just straight paths.
The eating area, still under construction, is quite large. The counter where you order food seems a bit small, though, and I imagine it’ll be chaos once more people start hearing about this place. Price-wise was definitely on the high side, with rice combos around 50-60RMB. I got chicken wings and steak fries for 35RMB, which I guess is affordable. One nice thing is that the menu has some Western food options as well as Chinese food.
Would I go again? Depending on how much the prices raise next year, I’d go to see it once construction is complete. Like I said, I think this one has the potential to be a really nice place to spend a day, both on the slopes or in the lodge. I do hope they add longer slopes though, but maybe I’m in the wrong country to be wishing for that.
Ticket price: 260RMB incl. equipment rental and round-trip bus on weekend
Ski suit rental: 40RMB (jacket and pants)
Locker rental: 20RMB