It may not snow in Shanghai but city warms to winter sports
Just weeks before the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the chairwoman of the athletes' committee, Yang Yang, was in Shanghai for a "winter spectacle" activity.
The retired speed skater was at the open-air ice-skating rink at the foot of the Oriental Pearl TV Tower to celebrate its return after last year's activity was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"It hasn't been an easy year, but we overcame difficulties to reopen it," China's first Winter Olympics gold medalist and 59-time world champion, said.
"It is a special way of supporting the Games," she added.
It rarely snows in Shanghai, but it has quickly warmed to winter sports in recent years. Yang was among those who spurred the interest.
She constantly travels and was attracted by the temporary ice rinks in famous spots – from squares in London to beaches in Monaco. Three years ago, she introduced the idea to the city.
Back then, it was a novelty for locals to glide on ice, but when the ice rink opened at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, "people flocked and lined up for three hours to give it a try," she told Thepaper.cn.
She was excited by the delightful vibes it created.
"In the one next to the Rockefeller Center in downtown New York, I saw lovey-dovey couples, parents with their kids, and those who were dancing on ice alone, with headphones on. They livened up New York's chilly winter," she said.
Temporary ice rinks have popped up in several places with nearly 10 of them in Shanghai. Across the city, there are 14 permanent rinks, 34 indoor ski resorts and three curling venues with eight curling tracks, according to the Shanghai Ice and Snow Sports Association.
"The number is increasing. We hope to build four to five standard ice rinks in the next few years," Yan Jiadong, director of the association, told Xinmin Evening News.
The highly-anticipated WintaStar Shanghai is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The spectacular indoor ski resort in the coastal Lingang area will become the world's largest integrated indoor ski resort, covering an area the size of 32 football fields, complete with restaurants, accommodation and a shopping mall.
Figures by the association show that the number of people taking part in winter sports has dramatically increased from only 600,000 in 2017 to 2.8 million in 2021. It is still an expensive sport, but Shanghai's spending on winter sports is second only to golf, Yan said.
In Shanghai, more than 20 outlets of Decathlon, the world's leading retailer of sporting goods, have prominently displayed winter sports gear and clothing, and enjoying a surge in sales.
The outlet in Pudong's Huamu area, its first brick-and-mortar store in Asia, reported 30 percent jump in winter sports gear and clothing in recent months.
People are buying their own gear, such as snowboards, snow goggles and snow shoes for better skiing experiences, Decathlon claimed.
Henrik Stefes, who is the ski experience center director of SNOW 51, can personally attest to it. SNOW 51 is one of the leading urban indoor ski experience chains in China.
"Many shopping malls have indoor rinks in Shanghai. Winter sports are no longer restricted to the season," Stefes said. "When I open my WeChat, every one of the 10 WeChat Moments is about skiing or playing with snow. I'd like to see it continue.
"It's an interest built on a sound financial base. China's GDP is rising, and I think skiing will definitely gain in popularity here," he said.
Yang Yaya, a Shanghai resident, agreed.
"In two years, I felt more and more people around me were fond of skiing. There are many skiing clubs and events. The city has created a great skiing ambience," she told Shanghai Daily. "My first skiing experience was in 2014. Now, I ski five to six weekends every year."
The Shanghai Sports Bureau believes the city will have 30 winter sports clubs and 2 million people engaged in winter sports every year by 2025.
A guide to some local winter sports venues
Rink on the Bund
Keywords: Shanghai's version of New York's Central Park's ice rink
The outdoor time-limited 200-sq-km-rink is a good place to enjoy a modern lifestyle. Located in the north square of the Bund Financial Center, there is a fantastic light show every night. A special program is performed every weekend on the rink with artificial snow and a fair. Free protective and auxiliary equipment is provided.
Address: 600 Zhongshan Rd E2
Dates: Through February 27
Tickets: 89-499 yuan (US$14-79)
3rd Shanghai International Winter Festival
Keywords: Skating along the Huangpu River
With an area covering 1,200 square meters, this is the largest time-limited outdoor rink in Shanghai. It is located at Sinar Mas Plaza, or White Magnolia Plaza. It has a heart-shaped rink. There is a light show too, and offers a fine view of the riverfront at night.
Address: 501 Dongdaming Rd
Dates: Through February 28
Tickets: 99-219 yuan
Tips: The daily maintenance time is 12pm-2:30pm.
Century Star Skating Club
Keywords: World-class ice rink
The club was set up in June 1999. It was the first professional skating training institution in China. Many skaters were trained in the club. It has nearly 30 branches in Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing and Shenzhen. It has hosted hundreds of national and international ice events.
Address: Room 401, 1599 Wuzhong Road
Time: Call the day before
Tickets: 100 yuan/2 hours
Feiyang Skating Center
Keywords: Champion Yang Yang's skating club
Feiyang Skating Center is located in the Sanlin Sports Center in the Pudong New Area, near Shanghai Expo Park. It was established by Yang Yang, a former short track speed skating athlete and the first gold medal winner at the Winter Olympics for China, in 2013. The center has two floors. The first floor has a 1,080-sqm area and is for the public. The second floor, taking up an area of 1,800 sqm, is an international-standard skating center, with 5,000 seating space. It can be used for training and holding big competitions and performances.
Address: 201 Yunlian Road
Time: 10am-9pm (Mon-Thur, Sat), 10-11:30am & 4:30pm-9pm (Fri), 11am-9pm (Sun)
Tickets: 30-80 yuan
Keywords: Leading indoor ski experience chain
SNOW 51 is an urban indoor ski experience hub and a professional ski training institution in China. It was established in 2018 and has 18 branches in Shanghai, and 11 others in Ningbo, Shenzhen and Beijing. It allows ski lovers to enjoy skiing through simulator machines.
Address: 18 branches in shopping centers like BFC, L+MALL in Lujiazui and HKRI Taikoo Hui