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Xinjiang emerges as winter sports hotspot

Xinhua | Updated: 2022-02-18 14:01
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People ski at a ski resort in Moyu county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, Jan 9, 2022.[Photo/Xinhua]

Boasting mountainous landscapes and long snowy seasons, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region in far west China has capitalized on the Olympic fever to transform itself into a winter sports paradise.

Long history

Since a cave painting of people hunting on skis with poles was discovered, believed to be over 12,000 years old, Xinjiang's Altay city has been regarded by many as one of the birthplaces of skiing.

Local herders still preserve the traditional way of traveling with skis made of pinewood and horsehair.

The Altay prefecture, which administers the city, is known for its long winter season that can last up to eight months a year. Today it is attracting skiers worldwide with its vast area of natural powder snow.

Wide participation

There is a growing presence of Xinjiang athletes in the Winter Olympics, from four at PyeongChang 2018 to six at Beijing 2022, with Dinigeer Yilamujiang being one of them. The cross-country skier lit the cauldron together with Nordic combined athlete Zhao Jiawen at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The seeds of winter sports are being sowed among the next generation. Four years ago, Altay incorporated skiing into physical education courses for primary and secondary school students, the first city to do so in China. So far, skiing courses have covered around 50,000 local students.

The ice-snow fever has also extended to the southern parts of Xinjiang, where winter sports were once a luxury. In the Hotan prefecture on the edge of the Taklimakan desert, locals can savor the joy of winter sports at the Oynak ski resort in Moyu county, which has launched a series of entertainment activities, including skiing, snowmobiling, and camel riding.

"Ice and snow are rare in Hotan, and people's enthusiasm runs high," said the ski resort's manager Liu Dongsheng, who added that the resort had received over 100,000 tourists since its opening in 2016.

More venues

Public enthusiasm for ice-snow sports has gone hand-in-hand with the development of Xinjiang's winter sports facilities over the years.

With China's successful bid to host the Winter Olympics and the fulfillment of its pledge to engage 300 million people in winter sports, Xinjiang has made full use of its ice-snow resources. Winter sports venues have mushroomed in the region, said Li Jianhong, head of the regional winter sports association.

By the end of last year, Xinjiang had 188 venues for ice-snow sports activities, including 60 amusement parks, said data from Xinjiang's sports bureau.

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