Learners ski at a resort. (Watteen Smith/For China Daily)
Despite the fact that 10,000-year-old cave paintings suggest to some experts that skiing may have been invented in China, the sport has not been particularly popular there as a recreational pursuit－until now.
The modern skiing industry has boomed in China since last July when Beijing was named as host of the Winter Olympics 2022. And, with a growing middle class, more Chinese people can afford to take to the slopes each year.
Twelve-and-a-half million people visited Chinese ski resorts in 2015, up from around 10,000 in the mid-1990s, according to a report by Chinese real estate developer Vanke.
This month, Warren Smith, one of Britain's most high-profile ski instructors, who counts members of the Royal Family as clients, opened the first British-run ski academy in China.
"There's a ski boom going on in China, they've got the 2022 Olympics coming up, they are all desperate to learn and become better skiers," Smith told China Daily.
In a bid to increase the popularity of snow sports in China ahead of the Games, the government is investing huge amounts in infrastructure, announcing plans to add 240 ski slopes to China's mountains in the coming years.
But Smith says the coaching culture must develop alongside infrastructure to enhance China's chances of more podium finishes in 2022. China frequently does well in skating but rarely excels on the snow, achieving only a bronze and a silver across all ski categories at Sochi 2014.
With locations in the UK, Italy, Switzerland, Canada and Japan, Warren Smith Ski Academies provide training to recreational skiers and ski instructors using contemporary methodologies.
"We have a specific method of having a three-way lineage," he says. "We combine monitoring of technique, biomechanics, and equipment. As far as I can see, no one has done that in China yet, and when we've brought across the information, it's been really well received."
The academy's classes are popular in China and Smith plans to expand the operation, adding several more instructors in 2017.
"We also want to bring some Chinese skiers out to Europe to come and train with us and become ski instructors, so they can take European qualifications back to China, planting the seed, really," said Smith, who has completed four ski tours of China since 2013 and who has judged the Chinese Mogul Championships.
"Skiers in China have shown me more enthusiasm than people from any other country I've skied with."
Smith attributes some of the academy's early popularity to Go Ski, a book he wrote in 2007 that was translated into Chinese. It sold 120,000 copies and became the handbook for many instructors in China.