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  • NW China's Xinjiang turns ice, snow resources into thriving industries

    2023-12-28source:People's Daily Online

    Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has leveraged its abundant ice and snow resources to develop new business models, attracting more people to the frozen wonderland while generating wealth for local people.

    Xinjiang is now home to a total of 101 ski resorts, 27 ice rinks, and 60 ice and snow parks. Take Jiangjun Mountain ski resort in Altay city for instance. It has seen more skiers these years, including tourists and local students. "My family used to only go sightseeing during winter. But this year, we specifically hired an instructor to teach our two children how to ski," said Huang Jianzhong, a tourist from Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province.

    A child skies at Jiangjun Mountain ski resort in Altay, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Dec. 19, 2023. Altay is emerging as a popular ski destination as its three ski resorts - Jiangjun Mountain, Koktokay and Jikepulin - offer better terrain variety and a longer ski season. (Xinhua/Ding Lei)

    According to Lyu Yaoping, an instructor of a ski school at Jiangjun Mountain, when Lyu arrived here as a coach four years ago, there were only 50-plus coaches in the entire school, but the number has since grown to 180.

    Among Lyu's students are school children from Altay city, which is recognized as the birthplace of skiing. Since 2018, the city has incorporated skiing into the physical education curriculum for elementary and middle school students, putting together 300 to 400 students to learn skiing every day at the Jiangjun Mountain ski resort, with expenses covered by the local education department. Dilyar Polat, a student at a middle school in Altay, has been selected for the youth ski team of the city and has the potential to embark on a professional career.

    Altay's case symbolizes Xinjiang's efforts to promote winter sports in schools. Fifty-six elementary and middle schools, and seven universities offer winter sports courses, attracting 46,000 students.

    The thriving tourism industry is bringing more opportunities to local people. Koktokay international ski resort in Altay, which has received over a million visitors since it opened in 2020, has provided stable employment for more than 210 local farmers and herders, with an average annual income of 32,000 yuan (about $4,483.71), while creating flexible jobs for over 7,000 people.

    Kayratbek Musay, a villager in Fuyun county, Altay, and his wife both work in Koktokay international ski resort during the slack farming season in winter. He said, "For us, there is no slack season any more. I'm the snowmaking supervisor, and my wife is the guest room supervisor at the resort's hotel. Together, we earn over 10,000 yuan per month!"

    Manufacturing ice and snow equipment is prospering, gradually becoming an important part of Xinjiang's ice and snow industry.

    The fur snowboard, a traditional piece of snowboarding equipment that local people have used for generations, is gaining new vitality. At a workshop in Altay city, Kwanishbek Slanbek, a craftsman who makes fur snowboards, said that most buyers are ski enthusiasts who want to experience the local skiing culture, though some tourists purchase them as souvenirs, too. Alongside full-sized boards, he makes palm-sized miniatures that are easily portable mementos.

    Making one fur snowboard, priced at about 1,000 yuan, takes some 15 days. Since the beginning of winter, the man has already produced 60 boards, with orders rolling in. "I'm also training young apprentices, which helps boost our incomes while passing down this cultural heritage," he said.

    Meanwhile, dozens of garment workers at Yaju Bedding Co., Ltd. in Habahe county are also accelerating their pace to deliver orders. The company just delivered 5,000 ski suits on Dec. 20, with another order of 12,000 is waiting to be made. According to the company's president, Li Yumei, the company is capable of producing skiing suits for professionals as well as middle and high school students. "We can make 200 pieces a day now, and our company launched a new series of products at the 17th Xinjiang Winter Tourism Industrial Trade Expo opened on Dec. 22, which will surely help us secure more orders," Li said.

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