Xuexiang Village, which literally means snow village, a once State-owned impoverished forestry farm located in China's northernmost province of Heilongjiang, has been transformed into a booming tourist resort, thanks to its forest resources and vision.
Formerly known as Shuangfeng forestry farm, the village is located at the southern foot of Changbai mountain. The snow here starts falling in October and begins to melt in April due to the influence of Siberian cold front and warm current from the Sea of Japan.
An unusual scene that is unique to the village is the "snow mushrooms", which are formed after sticky snow falls onto wood piles. Together with log cabins, pine trees and snowy mountains, the place looks like a fairy tale world.
Several decades ago, people came to the farm as loggers, living off the forest. Years of excessive logging resulted in a resource crunch. According to Fan Zhaoyi, a logger with 30 years' experience, his family's yearly income was 1,000 yuan (5) in 1999.
In 1998, the central government launched the natural forest protection project. Shuangfeng forestry farm stopped logging and started to make good use of the snow to develop the tourism industry.
Amateur photographers first promoted the beautiful scenery. With word of mouth and the development of internet, Xuexiang Village gradually became famous. Tourists began coming.
Sensing the new opportunities, loggers started to open family hotels and restaurants. Nearly 130 households are now involved in tourism business, said Fan Zhaoyi, who runs a family hotel of 15 rooms. "More than 50 of them used to be my workmates," added Fan.
"My family can make 200,000-300,000 yuan each year, which puts us in the middle bracket," said Fan.
Ten years ago, Xuexiang Village received less than 3,000 tourists a year, now the number reaches 150,000, said Yu Zebo, head of the tourism bureau under the Forest Industry Bureau of Heilongjiang province. The annual output value has risen to 50 million yuan from less than 50,000 yuan in 10 years.
To Fan, people come to Xuexiang Village for the snow and the prestine environment. They can only make money in the long run when the environment is well protected.
The local government has set up organizations to protect forest resources and formed forest fire prevention and rescue system. The Xuexiang Village hasn't seen a forest fire in 38 years.
In order to reduce the damage on the village by private cars, the government has banned outside cars from entering the village, and has provided 23 sightseeing buses instead. It has also imported six reindeer and five donkeys to transport goods.