The Snow Dad - Development of winter sports in China
Recently I had the privilege of visiting China to assist a number of stakeholders with the development of snow sports. The following is based on my observations and follow up research.

Hosts of Winter Olympic Games in Beijing 2022, China is becoming an important snow sport nation. Not just because of its size but also because of their track record of growth and progress in all aspects during the last decades.

During my visit, I was amazed by the government of China’s ambitious 6 year plan to attract 300 million people to winter sports (180 million people to ice related sports and 120 million people to snow related sports). How these numbers were selected remains a mystery; however what we do know is that this will be a huge challenge. The Law of Diffusion tells us if you want to have mass market acceptance or mass market success, you cannot have it until you achieve tipping point which is between 15% - 18%. In the case of China the tipping point is 18 million or 18% of 120 million. This is a staggering number especially when you consider that they want to achieve this in 6 years.

As such, when developing skiing in China I firmly believe there must be five things in place; system of skiing development, snow sports infrastructure, snow sports education, communication tools about skiing and long term planning.

System of snow sports development
To develop systematic growth best practices are required. As we speak Chinese delegations are traveling abroad to meet and connect with different winter sport organizations, institutions and experts to obtain these best practices. The meetings allow the delegations and persons to learn from the best and look build a sustainable level of development in China.

Ski infrastructure
Critical to any ski industry is infrastructure. This not only means the installations of lifts and snow making but also the development of accommodation and transport to the destinations. Whilst China’s land mass is vast the federal government are investing billions into high speed transport and airports to move people easily to and from major cities. This transport infrastructure will also be critical in the future as it will move persons living in the resorts to major cities allowing them to work there.

Ski and Snowboard Education
Various studies have found that 75% of skiers and snowboarders in China, have had a one-time experience for about two hours. Whilst this may seem low it is in fact a staggeringly huge number when you consider the population of the country. To support such a large amount of people, ski and snowboard schools must have an established system of teaching the sport. With help from International Ski Instructors Association (ISIA), best practices are being shared as well as experienced instructors being sent to various areas to help ski and snowboard schools get off the ground.

Another key area to help ski and snowboard education further will be ski and snowboard clubs. The development of clubs will provide existing instructors another level of development to become coaches. Furthermore, through clubs competitions are generated. This allows athletes to be developed but also provides media outlets added stories. One critical element that will be necessary to healthy club development will be the support from the Chinese Ski Association (CSA). Lines of communication between the CSA and potential clubs must be always kept open and clear to avoid the mistakes of other nations.

A major question in China is, what should be done to improve the popularity of skiing and snowboarding?

The increase in popularity will be determined by the quality and level of local communication. China has a centralized media system that is well connected to the Chinese Ski Association. The strong link will prove useful, if the Ski Association can capitalize on it. From personal experience whilst negative stories make headlines their long term impact and encouragement to act is very low. As such, it is recommended that coverage is given to positive stories for example successful national skiers and snowboarders. I have seen the profound and positive effect this has on my son and can safely assume the same would happen in China. Fortunately China has already had strong success in freestyle skiing and snowboarding meaning finding successful athletes will be a easier.

Long term planning
As with any Olympics, long term planning is vital. Beyond the games in 2022, success of the sport will reside in three categories:

1. Professional skiing
2. Recreational skiing
3. Children/Youth skiing

In each category support from the National Ski Association is required, particularly in generating news stories.

Another key area to successfully maintaining visitors to destinations, is the consideration that guests to resorts are not necessarily only skiers and snowboarders. Ski resorts are becoming snow, sport, wellness and fun destinations with a variety of activities. As a parent these are more enticing places to visit and holiday, as children can be entertained for hours and mum and dad can relax.

It is no secret that snow sports is still at a very early stage of development in China. With steady growth of new resorts each year, it seems China wants to catch up to well developed winter sport nations fast. Despite the fast growth we are sure to see many individual become passionate about snow sports. Beijing 2022 will be the first city to host both a summer and winter games and as such will be an exciting city to follow.

Andrej Miklavc. Olympian, Author of THE SPORTSKID WHISPERER and CEO of Winter Sport Expert Group

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