Swiss Ski Resort Offers Winter Sport Expertise to Beijing

swiss

Regardless of the outcome of the highly anticipated 2022 Olympics host city announcement on July 31, an influx of winter sport facilities are coming to China.

During a press conference on July 14, Eric A. Balet, general manager of Switzerland’s Verbier Ski Resort, answered questions regarding the expansion of sporting facilities in Yanqing and Zhangjiakou and the desire to turn China into a ski destination.

“Long-term development is something that absolutely deserves our long-term attention,” he said.

Balet was joined by trail specialist Paul-Voctor Amaudruz and cable car expert Paul Glassey, who are assisting in the cooperation efforts.

A 10-year contract has already been signed, and a 20-year plan for development is under appraisal, Balet said. This includes assistance in the design and operation of ski lifts, as well as on-site training for professionals, with the goal of facilities eventually being fully Chinese-run.

Balet spoke favorably of the agricultural and ecological conditions for creating artificial snow, one of the bigger concerns in creating snow sport facilities and in choosing a winter Olympics site. While there is still work to do on expanding facilities, the capability for artificial snow is already there, and the agricultural conditions are ideal, he said, often the biggest hurdle.

He based this on altitude, humidity and typical snowfall, as well as his own experience.

An important point to remember, he says, is the necessity for artificial snow regardless of natural weather conditions. All trails in Switzerland have a heavy reliance on artificial snow for skiing and snowboarding; real snow is often cleared away because it is not as thick or densely packed.

“This is a point people often miss when analyzing winter sport venues,” Balet said.

Another concern raised was the impact of artificial snowmaking on water resources in the surrounding area. Switzerland encountered this issue 20 years ago, Balet said, but rainfall accumulation from a fairly short period of time, maybe a few weeks, can create enough of a supply. He added that his resort is happy to provide advice on how best to collect water.

When asked about the winter sport culture in China, Balet stressed the importance of attracting youth when developing culture. He suggested setting up more ski and snowboarding schools or local clubs to teach children the basics, a necessary first step toward an interest in the various ski and snow activities in the Olympics. Winter ice festivals and winter sport-related concerts offer other ways to expand the relevance of winter sports in culture.

Other issues to be addressed as plans move forward include the traffic around Yanqing, where the bobsleigh, alpine skiing, skeleton and luge events would be held. Glassey suggested the construction of a cable car from a more accessible location up into the mountains, to avoid having to drive through the difficult mountain roads. He praised the ease of travel between the three cities, however, particularly the route from Beijing to Zhangjiakou via the high speed rail.

“(Going from) three hours to 50 minutes is unprecedented convenience,” Glassey said.

Balet inspected the various venue sites – in Yanqing and Zhangjiakou – alongside Vice Premier Liu Yandong, and said he sees the invitation to advise on trail construction and venue operations as a symbol of future cooperation. He believes the new facilities will attract amateur and professional skiers from across Asia, as well as those from Europe, given the different mountains, terrain and overall experience skiing in northern China would provide.

 

This article was published on China.org.cn on July 15, 2015. You can see the original post here.