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China's ski resorts hope for Olympic boost

Across the mountains of northern China, the slopes are filling up with young, wealthy professionals.

They are the people hundreds of new ski resorts in China are pinning their hopes on.

Ski villages have sprung up across the country over the past few years thanks to help from Beijing.

The government envisions a multibillion-dollar snow sports industry, a goal unveiled after China won the right to host the Winter Olympics.

One way it's doing that is reeling in wealthier workers like 32-year-old Shi Haoping.

"I think China doesn't have an established ski culture yet, because the sport isn't yet that widespread. Most of us are still at a beginner's stage in exploring and learning about new things and new styles."

Only about 20 of China's 700 ski spots are currently considered top destinations.

The country's climate limits intensive resort development.

Industry insiders say the long-term challenge is to make sure the full skiing experience is enjoyable, from the quality of the teaching and equipment down to the apres ski social activities, so more beginners want to spend the time and money to become regulars.

But 34-year-old snowboard instructor Liu Jia says she fears the focus on snow sports is just a passing phase.

"I think the skiing culture in China, especially snowboarding, is becoming very popular now, drawing many rich people into this sport. If they have the ability to spend, they probably care more about how they look. So they will wear AK457 jackets, or ones that cost hundreds, over a thousand dollars at this everyday, artificial ski slope, which is actually completely unnecessary. They only want to show off their identity and follow the trend."

China currently ranks eighth globally in skier visits, according to an industry report, behind the United States, Austria and France.

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