Nuclear testing in North Korea has forced the closure of China's first and only cat-skiing operation.
Underground nuclear tests conducted by North Korea have triggered landslides across the Chinese border, prompting authorities to close off large sections of Changbaishan National Nature Reserve.
The announcement spells bad news for the local cat-skiing industry. The closures have restricted access to some of Changbaishan’s most popular backcountry areas, including Changbaishan Peak.
“For the safety and convenience of travelers, we have temporarily closed the zone of Changbai Mountain. Officials are thoroughly investigating the safety of the tourist area,” said Chinese authorities.
In recent years, Changbaishan has developed into one of China’s premier ski destinations—even touted as a potential stop on the Freeride World Tour. The region is blessed with an abundance of powder thanks to Siberian winds that roll over from the north-east.
The newly built Changbaishan International Ski Resort is one of China’s most impressive ski facilities, featuring two high-speed gondolas and several luxury hotels. But it’s Changbaishan’s volcanic backcountry that has attracted more attention internationally.
In 2016, Changbaishan was featured in Jordan Manley’s “A Skier’s Journey” series. In the 16 minute episode, Arc’teryx skiers Chad Sayers and Forrest Coots explore the region and its untapped potential via an $85 cat-ski tour. The skiers make it as far as Mount Paekdu (known otherwise as Changbaishan Peak) but stop short of skiing into the crater, concerned that it might provoke a response from North Korean military.
Skiers inspired by Manley’s documentary may need to wait some time before Changbaishan reopens its backcountry gates. North Korea looks in no hurry to discontinue its nuclear program, with tensions between North and South at a boiling point.
There are fears that further nuclear testing could cause Mount Paektu to erupt. If this were to happen, more than a million lives would be at risk.