Friday, February 24, 2012

Slopes Around The World - Part Three

All the ski resorts I mentioned in my previous articles are world renowned, (at least in the winter sports community), and I have been blessed with the crème de la crème of each region I've visited. Unexpectedly, this includes China – before university I spent a gap year in Beijing where I attempted to learn Chinese. For a foreigner, this is practically an impossible task but I had an amazing time visiting places that most people only ever read of: the Great Wall, the Terracotta Warriors, the Forbidden City and the Nan Shan Ski Resort, the biggest and most advanced of Northern China. It was composed of four artificial slopes and was the craziest, weirdest place I have ever skied in. Even weirder than skiing besides a giant Pink Panther.

A bus ride away from the capital, Nan Shan (which means South Mountain) is a popular and expensive ski resort for wealthy Beijingers and ski-deprived foreigners like myself who will do anything for a fix. To understand what I went through at this resort, you must know this: in China, social rules do not apply. I am not passing judgment; I am simply stating the fact that what we consider normal social behavior does not exist in their culture. Therefore, a westerner like myself could only qualify this ski resort as completely chaotic. Within the 23 kilos Air France allocated me on the flight over, I didn't think of bringing ski or snow boots and so my friends and I had to rent all of our gear directly at the station. By the time I'd explained that I needed men’s ski boots for my larger than size five feet, ignored the snickering of the Chinese people around me, tried the boots on and realised they were from two different pairs, got my rented ski poles snatched while I was trying to correct the error, went back to get new ski poles, got on the slopes and fell a lot because the ski latches didn't fit the boots, I was more exhausted than if I had competed in the Winter Olympics. And all of this speaking Chinese! Don’t get me wrong; this was probably the funniest skiing experience of my life.

In Chinese cities, where pedestrians, bicycles, motorcycles, cars, and sometimes donkeys try to coexist on the road, rules become arbitrary. On the slopes, the same situation applies. I was brought up with two very important ski rules: you don’t cut in front of someone at full speed and the person bellow you on the slope always has priority in the turn. I forgot about all of that in Nan Shan because once you're on the slope it becomes survival of the fittest. This carelessness probably makes Nan Shan the most dangerous ski slope and this is coming from a person who jumped off a ski lift. I also have to rank Nan Shan as the most idiosyncratic place. I saw a huge variety of curious things while there: one woman was casually skiing with her baby in her arms while another had brought her pet dog that ran after her as she nonchalantly worked her way down. Couple that with the broken English on their safety signs and I really was expecting the sky would fall on my head.

Written by Camille Soulier

Camille's full profile can be found here.

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