A guide to skiing in and around Beijing, China's first Winter Olympic host city.
Despite its bone-dry winters, Beijing boasts more than 20 ski resorts, which in recent years have accommodated almost 2 million visitors per season. This number is expected to rise with the development of the Yanqing National Alpine Centre, China’s purpose-built Olympic racing venue.
Much of Beijing 2022, however, will be staged at Taizicheng ski area in Zhangjiakou’s Chongli district, 250 km from downtown Beijing. This cluster of resorts, which includes some of China’s biggest and best known, can now be reached in less than an hour from Beijing.
Wanlong Paradise Resort (Chongli District, Zhangjiakou)
Distance from Beijing (central): 250 km (road)
Ski Area: 36.9 km / 32 runs / 1560 – 2110 (550) m elevation
Lifts: 2 gondolas / 5 chairlifts / 3 magic carpets
Lift pass: (RMB): 510 – 590 / day
Wanlong Paradise Resort opened in 2003 and has since developed into one of China’s premier ski destinations. The resort, which has long been used as a racing venue, will host the parallel slalom snowboarding at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.
Wanlong is located in the Taizicheng area of Chongli – also home to Thaiwoo and Genting Secret Garden. This small cluster of ski resorts is found approximately 60 kilometers from Zhangjiakou City, but can now be accessed via Taizicheng station on the Chongli branch of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou Intercity Railway.
Wanlong may not have the Western-style village atmosphere that some of China’s newer resorts have tried to cultivate, but the skiing on offer is arguably the best in the region, particularly for those wanting steeper gradients and more challenging terrain.
“Wanlong is really good for groomers,” says Pete Tupper, whose outdoor education company, Imagine China, offers organised ski trips to Beijing and Chongli resorts.
“It’s got loads and loads of black slopes, but not so much for beginners or freestylers. It’s really good for advanced skiing on-piste.”
Wanlong is serviced by 7 cable lifts including 2 six-person gondolas and 3 quad chairlifts, which in peak season carry up to 3000 skiers per day. The resort enjoys one of the longest ski seasons in Asia, with its lifts routinely opening on 1 November each year.
“That’s why a lot of people from Japan go to Wanlong, for example, in November for ski racing training. November is a good time to go because it’s before the busy season – not many crowds. [It’s] a good place for early season training because other resorts aren’t yet open,” says Pete.
Thaiwoo Ski Resort (Chongli District, Zhangjiakou)
Distance from Beijing (central): 260 km (road)
Ski Area: 20 km / 23 runs / 1650 – 2160 (510) m elevation
Lifts: 1 gondola / 3 chairlifts / 10 magic carpets
Lift pass (RMB): 435 – 696 /day
Thaiwoo Ski Resort, which first opened to skiers in 2015, is one of the newer resorts on this list, and has fast become one of China’s most popular ski destinations. The Chongli-based resort, which is set to host the freestyle skiing and snowboard cross at Beijing 2022, has already hosted several FIS World Cup Events in its short lifespan, including the 2019 Freestyle Ski Moguls.
“The nice thing about Thaiwoo is that it’s a great place for a relaxing weekend or week away because it has a nice village with restaurants, bars and hotels – everything that you’d need for a ski holiday,” says Pete Tupper.
“And it obviously has a lot more ski slopes – and longer ski slopes [than Beijing resorts].”
Thaiwoo is built upon Jade Peak (Yushi Liang), which caps out at 2,160 m and offers skiers 510 m of vertical. Its 31 trails span 20km and comprise a 30/40/30 split of easy, intermediate and difficult terrain. It should be noted that Thaiwoo is touted for serious expansion, with an additional 200 planned ski trails totalling 138km in length.
Skiers studying the resort’s trail map for the first time may be intrigued to see Thaiwoo’s boundary line marked by a rather familiar landmark. The resort sits next to an unrestored section of the Great Wall, which is visible from Thaiwoo’s main gondola.
Thaiwoo’s modern infrastructure includes state-of-the-art chairlifts, an 8-person detachable gondola and 10 magic carpets for beginners. The resort also features a HelvePark-designed terrain park, which encompasses 7 hectares and offers pro, medium and beginner lines, a border cross course and a kids park.
At ground level, visitors will find a Whistler-style walk-through village complete with bars, international restaurants, clothing retailers, pools and spas. Western tastes are well catered to, with options including Starbucks, KFC and an American-style craft brewery that lays claim to the title of China’s best après ski bar.
Genting Resort Secret Garden (Chongli District, Zhangjiakou)
Distance from Beijing (central): 250 km (road)
Ski Area: 16 km / 35 runs / 1702 – 2100 (398) m elevation
Lifts: 1 gondola / 4 chairlifts / 2 magic carpets
Lift pass (RMB): 570 – 700 / day
Another of Chongli’s more popular ski destinations is the Malaysian-owned Genting Resort Secret Garden, which has been in operation since 2012. Genting has twice finished runner up in the Ski Asia Awards’ China category, losing only to Beidahu in 2019 and Sun Mountain Yabuli in 2020.
Genting’s quad chair/gondola combination lift connects the Genting Grand hotel complex with the top of the mountain – a modest 398 m climb from base to summit. The resort has 35 marked trails spread over 80 hectares, but its owners have made known their ambitious plans for expansion that would see an additional 30 km of terrain developed, totalling an investment of RMB 18 billion.
Since 2018, Genting and neighbouring Wanlong Paradise Resort have offered a joint lift pass (RMB 660 – 780), which allows skiers access to a combined 12 cable lifts at present. The two resorts, both located in Chongli district’s Taizicheng area, occupy different sides of the same mountain.
Genting’s snow park, which features an Olympic-sized half pipe, is its marquee attraction and has earned the resort Olympic hosting duties. Come Olympics, Genting will be repurposed into two separate venues, each with a 5000+ capacity. Snow Park A and B will host several events including snowboarding slopestyle, halfpipe and freestyle skiing.
Beijing Nanshan Ski Village (Myun District)
Distance from Beijing (central): 60 km
Ski Area: 5 km / 26 runs / 90 – 215 (125) m elevation
Lifts: 3 chairlifts / 9 drag lifts / 4 magic carpets
Lift pass (RMB): 330 – 495 / day
Encompassing 670 acres of skiable terrain, Nanshan Ski Village is the largest ski resort within Beijing itself. Just 60 km from the city centre, Nanshan is easily accessed via direct shuttle from Shaoyaoju, Wudaokou or Sanyuan Bridge subway stations (RMB 55). The ski village typically opens for business towards the end of November and closes in March.
“You’ve got to go there on weekdays. On weekends, it’s pretty packed being so close to Beijing,” says Pete Tupper.
Nanshan’s gentle slopes are geared towards first-timers and casuals, with 80% of the mountain classified as beginner or intermediate terrain. Nanshan is serviced by 3 quadruple lifts, 13 drag lifts and 9 magic carpets, with a total lifting capacity of 18,000 per hour. The resort employs 180 professional ski and snowboard instructors, with lessons on offer to both adults and children.
“Kids can’t really get lost. It’s quite an enclosed space. There are no cliffs that you can fly off. There are no wrong turns that you can take. Everything funnels back down to the same place. It feels very contained.”
Nanshan’s single black run, ‘Mogul Trail’, offers some variety to more confident skiers, but it’s the German-designed Mellow Park that serves as the resort’s drawcard attraction. The terrain park, which has staged numerous freestyle events over the years, features an 80 m long half pipe, 2 pro kickers, 2 medium kickers, a wallride and an array of rails, boxes and mini kickers.
“You go for the snow park,” says Pete. “It’s only one hour from Beijing. The weather is very consistent – not that cold – usually pretty sunny, and it’ s just very convenient. You can go there for a day trip from Beijing city, turn out, have a good day, then head back.”
“For park skiing, it’s very consistent because you don’t get much natural snowfall, which is actually good for park. [Nanshan] controls everything about the conditions. They shape it and it stays the same. You don’t have white outs or days where there’s too much snow.”
Night skiing is available from 6:00-9:30 pm daily, but be prepared to bear the brunt of the bitter cold. Beijing’s temperatures can drop to well below zero in winter.
Beijing Huaibei International Ski Resort (Huairou District)
Distance from Beijing (central): 70 km
Ski Area: 4.5 km / 11 runs / 92 – 330 (238) m elevation
Lifts: 3 chairlifts / 4 drag lifts / 5 magic carpets
Lift pass (RMB): 220 – 390 / day
Beijing Huaibei International Ski Resort is located in Jiugukou Natural Scenic Area, 70 km north of Beijing’s city centre. Huaibei, which opened in 2001, is one of Beijing’s oldest ski resorts but remains among its most popular.
Like Nanshan, Huaibei caters to beginners, of which China has many. The resort’s mellow pistes span 4.5 km, with 10,000 m² of skiable terrain on offer. Huabei offers just the one ‘black’ run, the 750 m long ‘Quattro’, which at a gradient of 22° is gentle enough to be considered a green slope in North America – blue in Europe.
Huaibei is a 90 minute bus ride (#936) from Dongzhimen Station Exit B, with buses in circulation between 7 am and 5 pm. A shuttle is also available from Tuesday to Sunday, leaving Dongzhimen at 8:10 am and returning at 4:10 pm. Those driving to Huaibei can take the Jingcheng Expressway out of Beijing.
Huaibei’s historic location is one of its major selling points. The ski area is perched below a Ming-era section of the Great Wall, which can be sighted from the slopes. Several tour operators, including Tour Beijing, offer day trips that combine skiing and lunch with a visit to the wall. These trips typically allow for around 2-3 hours of skiing.