China sees winter sports boom around Spring Festival

For many Chinese, this year's purchases for the Spring Festival became even more special as the Winter Olympic Games opened on the doorstep.

For many Chinese, this year's purchases for the Spring Festival became even more special as the Winter Olympic Games opened on the doorstep.

In addition to traditional festive goods such as flowers, pastries, and dried fruits, Chinese consumers are getting their hands on winter sports gear and equipment for the weeklong holiday celebrating the Chinese New Year.

Data from the online marketplace showed that the turnover of ice and snow equipment increased by 107 percent year on year, winter sportswear increased by 99 percent, and related protective gear up 41 percent during its "2022 New Year shopping festival."

The Spring Festival holiday arrived with the temperature lowering to minus 10 degrees Celsius in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Passionate skiers, however, have geared up.

Forty-year-old Luo Wei got up early in the morning on the first day of the new year, taking his skis to the Yuehai ski resort in the city of Yinchuan in Ningxia.

Stepping on the board, edging, carving, then braking. These beautiful moves are now so riveting to Luo. He was born and raised in southern China and used to have few chances to experience the charm of winter sports.

"I enjoy sliding on the snow, especially the speed that makes me exhilarated," he said.

Spurred by the Winter Olympics, this snow season has seen more and more skiing learners, said coach Wang Zijie at the resort. So far he had taught more than 200 citizens, with the oldest being 79 years old and the youngest less than two and a half years old.

According to the country's winter sports governing body, the number of Chinese people who have participated in winter sports training, amateur or professional competitions, and winter sports-related leisure activities has reached 346 million. It surpassed the goal of 300 million set in 2015 when Beijing won the Olympic bid. That figure means one in four Chinese people have enjoyed winter sports or related activities at least once.

Also, the burgeoning boom for snow sports in southern city of Guangzhou makes Anna Dotsenko, a 27-year-old Russian expatriate, feel at home.

"It's amazing! The (indoor) ski resort is much bigger than I thought," said Dotsenko, who went to Sunac Snow Park in this subtropical city last month.

Skiing with her mother in the park on winter weekends is one of her fond childhood memories.

"I didn't know there is such a place in warm Guangzhou, but when I went there, I found so many people skiing and snowboarding, including some professionals," she said.

Sunac Snow Park, the largest indoor ski area in south China covering 75,000 square meters, has received more than 2 million visitors since it began operations in 2019. An ice and snow culture festival also takes place in the city.

China is making winter sports more accessible. As of early 2021, China had built 654 standard ice rinks across the country, up a whopping 317 percent from 2015. The nation also has a total of 803 indoor and outdoor ski resorts.

It is the third year in a row Dotsenko is spending the Spring Festival in Guangzhou. As an avid winter sports fan, she has more to look forward to, such as watching various Winter Olympic events during the holiday.

"This year, I also plan to help with some sports projects such as introducing ice hockey competitions at indoor venues in Guangzhou, which I think would be fun," she said.

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