Changbaishan Ski Resort
- Surroundings: In the heart of Changbaishan Nature Reserve's dense forests
- Season: Mid November – Early May
- Location: 500 kilometers east of Changchun, Jilin Province, northern China
- Trails: 2 Apline, 2 Nordic – freestyle stretches, snowboards welcome
- Highest Skiing Elevation: 1820 meters above sea level
- Lift: 1
- Optional (off-piste): Snowmobile rental
- Target Group: Beginner to advanced levels.
Changbaishan (Mount Changbei) Ski Resort is located in Changbaishan Nature Reserve in the township of Erdaobeihe, Antu County, in Jilin province, China's next-most-northerly non-autonomous province (the northernmost non-autonomous province is Heilongjiang, home to China's premier ski resort, Yabuli, while Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region (aka Inner Mongolia), home to China's second-best ski resort, Alshan, is China's northernmost autonomous "province"). While Yabuli is the primary training venue for China's national Alpine ski team, and while Alshan is the primary training venue for China's national Nordic (Cross-Country) ski team, Changbaishan Ski Resort is one of the secondary training bases for both of China's national ski teams.
The ski resort is surrounded by the dense forests of Changbaishan Nature Reserve, which further enhances the beauty of the resort. Mount Changbei, located on the border between China (Jilin Province's southern border) and North Korea, is the most sacred ancient mountain to Koreans (in ancient times, Korea – i.e., the ancient Gojoseon Kingdom – was not limited to the Korean Peninsula, but extended northward into southern Manchuria, or what is present-day Liaoning, Jilin, and Heilongjiang Provinces as well as the bordering Inner Mongolia region and the maritime provinces of present-day Russia, whose southernmost seaport is Vladivostok).
The snow quality at Changbaishan is said to compare to that of the Alpine region of France and Italy. However, Changbaishan's off-piste skiing is one of the overlooked gems of Chinese skiing, owing, most certainly, to the fact that off-piste skiing is only recommended for the most experienced skiers who additionally know how to comport themselves in 'off-the-beaten-track' situations (for example, the border with North Korea can be accidentally crossed here if one is not attentive – this is reported to have actually happened once).
The main off-piste draw of Changbaishan is the awesome views from the rim of the mountain, including the view of Lake Tienchi below. Mount Changbai is namely a dormant volcano. It is perhaps a matter of semantics whether a volcano is dormant (may awaken) or extinct (dead). In any case, the Changbaishan-Tienchi volcano's last eruption has been estimated by geophysicists to have occurred around CE 1200, but since the ski resort offers bathing in its natural thermal springs, it is more logical to assume that the volcano is dormant rather than extinct. The view of Lake Tienchi nestled at the bottom of the volcano's caldera, or crater, is said to be priceless.
Changbaishan Ski Resort has two Alpine pistes totalling in all 3000 meters, each with an intermediate-level slope. There are as well two Nordic trails measuring in all about 5000 meters, which pass through pristine forests and with optional stretches that are designed for skiing acrobactics, aka freestyle skiing (these stretches can accomodate a maximum of 100 persons, due to concerns for mutual skier safety).
The pistes and trails at Changbaishan are maintained in a well-groomed state. Snowfall is plentiful here during the prime, November to early May season, and the constant low winter temperature ensures deep snow on the pistes and trails. The ski resort has a single cable car that delivers skiers to a common jumping off point, as it were. Snowboarding is also welcomed. As a supplement to the cable car, one can hire a snowmobile to get to other, off-piste destinations such as the rim of the Changbaishan-Tienchi volcano.
There are the usual support facilities here, such as a ski training center, a ski equipment rental center, bars, restaurants, and hotel and hostel accomodations with a capacity of about 400 beds. The resort has a team of professional ski instructors to help the novice get started and advance quickly, or to aid more experienced skiers in perfecting their various techniques.
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I updated this article on January 16, 2013
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