Skiers of all ages and standards have been enjoying the state-of-the-art facilities this year at Genting Resort Secret Garden, a venue for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.Feng Yongbin / China Daily
Genting resort gets in gear for 2022 Winter Olympics
Despite face-numbing winds and biting temperatures of -20 C, the Genting Resort Secret Garden is still the hottest ticket in town this week.
The resort, part of the Chongli district in 2022 Winter Olympics co-host city Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, has kicked off its Beijing Games preparations in earnest by hosting rounds of the FIS Freestyle Ski Aerials World Cup, which took place over the weekend, and the Freeski and Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup, which began on Tuesday.
Entertaining the crowds with his daring flips and tricks on Sunday, Chinese aerial skier Qi Guangpu clearly enjoyed the Genting experience.
"It's a serious competition but we had a lot of fun with each other and we really enjoyed the hot atmosphere here. Hopefully, this event will further ignite the passion for winter sports in this region," Qi said after winning the team discipline with compatriots Xu Mengtao and Jia Zongyang.
As well as home victories to cheer, a winter sports carnival, featuring a snowball fight, ice slides and a trampoline, ensured families enjoyed a fun-filled time on the slopes, which continue to attract soaring visitor numbers ahead of the 2022 Olympics.
According to local government figures, Chongli has seen a 20 percent annual rise in visitors since Beijing won the right to host the Games in July 2015. For the 2016-17 snow season, that has translated into a total of 2.68 million visitors.
Genting alone served about 250,000 skiers last year with the number expected to crack 300,000 this year, according to Benno Nager, the resort's chief operation officer.
"Every year we add more fun factor to this place. We really want people to come here, even if they don't ski, and enjoy themselves," said Nager, an alpine resort management expert with two decades of experience in the business.
Accommodating all levels of skiers and boarders, from high-performance athletes to beginners, is Genting's goal in the buildup to 2022 and beyond.
Nager has assembled an international team, including track-grooming specialists and hospitality executives, to help raise the consumer experience at the resort, which will host freestyle skiing and snowboarding at the Games.
However, he insists that that expertise will be passed on to locals.
"We do have experts from overseas because that's where we had to start from, but our goal is really to train enough local people," Nager explained.
"What we want to do is to have a legacy here, so that after the Olympics we can have a local team to perfectly operate these facilities."
Located on the outskirts of Zhangjiakou, about 220km northwest of Beijing, the Genting resort currently boasts 41 course for skiing and boarding, including a newly opened Olympic-standard halfpipe ramp. A total investment of 18 billion yuan (.7 billion) means the resort will eventually become an 88-course destination.
The ongoing upgrade will see a series of ramps and courses constructed for freestyle mogul, ski cross, snowboard slopestyle and parallel giant slalom before 2021, when Genting hosts the FIS World Championships - its final test event for the Olympics.
Meanwhile, this month's World Cup series have provided invaluable experience for Games organizers, claimed Nager.
"We can start training and preparing for the world championships and the Olympics from now on," he said.
"There is a lot to tackle with these facilities, which are technical on one hand and also very artistic on the other."
Australian freestyle skier Samantha Wells, who finished fifth in the women's individual aerials World Cup competition, is already impressed by Genting's Olympic credentials.
"Being able to be at an Olympic venue four years ahead of time is definitely an advantage as an athlete because we got to sense a little bit of what it looks like to be competing at the Games here," she said.
"Based on this week's event, it seems to be a great venue for the Olympics."