Feeling melancholy about an especially unseasonal Christmas, we decided to bring the festivity of the Alps to Beijing, and go on a little skiing trip to Yunfoshan on the outskirts of Beijing.
Thanks to a serendipitous introduction the night prior to our departure, we managed to travel in a private car for cheaper than a taxi would have cost us. A good thing too, because Harry’s princely standards would demand nothing less. Furthermore, it fortunately saved us a five hour bus journey. We stocked up on Bordeaux and Gruyère before departing on a short car journey to reach the ghostly area of Miyun, and were greeted at our accommodation by some friendly old women.
Christmas songs were played as we layered up to face the great outdoors, and 3 pairs of leggings later, we walked to the resort to get our fix of snow. Thanks to the foresight of some of the team, we had booked ski passes online for 89rmb per person per day, which was a large saving compared to the normal price of 240rmb. It was fairly apparent why the pass was so cheap when we saw the two ski slopes (three if generous) that graced the hill’s presence – one ski lift took skiiers to the intermediate slope, while button lifts covered the rest.
Rental was quick and efficient, and we marvelled at the hordes of 70s style skis and boots (more on these later). The instructors were all wearing ancient Russia Olympic ski suits and were keen to help us as we made our way out to the slope. It was at this point that we first witnessed the terrifying truth about Chinese skiiers – fearless and completely out of control. Speed wobble seemed to be the norm, and we took bets on the lift to see how long the various speed-demons would stay on their feet.
The confidence of the less experienced skiiers on the slope explained the low DINs of the bindings (4 out of 10). For those who are not familiar with ski bindings, it is prudent to have your bindings set on a low number if you are likely to fall, as the ski boot will pop out of the ski with relative ease, therefore minimising the likelihood of twisting an ankle. However, for the more experienced and heavy skiiers among us (Harry), one sharp turn led to the first wipe out of the day about two metres off the lift, as the binding couldn’t take the Alps-learnt technique of tight turns when skiing. We spent a solid quarter of our day helping those whose skis were halfway up the hill, and the rest avoiding the rogue poles that had been left behind.
At around 4:30pm the lifts closed, and we walked back to our accommodation for Christmas songs and a delicious home-made dinner. We were the only guests staying in the restaurant, and were treated like royalty by the aforementioned old ladies who did everything to ensure we had a pleasant stay. After our authentic Chinese dining experience, we moved to the room and drank the wine and nibbled the cheese. It all proved a bit much for some, but overall it was a lovely festive evening away from the bustle of Wudaokou.
After a good night’s sleep on the hotbed, we ate our Nature Valley bars as we walked to the slopes and fought through the busloads of visitors to collect our tickets. Saturday was noticeably more busy than the Friday had been, but we were lucky in that the majority kept to the separate beginners slope (although there was a growing minority that grew more confident as the day went on and terrorised our slope instead).
With the pictures of the speed-wobble etched in our minds, we decided that the relatively expensive helmet rental was worth it for the Saturday. While it cost the same as a day’s ski pass, the peace of mind and protection from the flying poles was worth it. Liberty and I got our money’s worth when we were taken out on the first run of the day, and for the rest of the day it kept our heads toasty.
The cold got to us by 11:30, so we took an early lunch in the humble and cheap canteen, and fuelled up with Kung Pao chicken for the afternoon. By this point, the solo slope was getting a little old, so we amused ourselves by trying tricks and skiing through legs. Will gained admiring glances for his one-legged skiing, while Louise’s skiing attire mesmerised the locals. Liberty, Harry and I ‘impressed’ with our copious amounts of Durham Bailey stash (Palatinalps? Palatinyunfoshan might be more apt.) I have almost nailed the pirouette on the slope, and Liberty has just about learned to ski through my legs, so all in all our spontaneous skills session was successful.
Despite the fact that the skiing wasn’t quite Val D’Isère, the après-ski was confined to our room in the restaurant-hotel, and that I’ve been left with a limp from the soviet ski boots, it was a wonderful few days skiing with some terrific friends. ‘White Christmas’ and ‘Step Into Christmas’ on repeat succeeded in getting us into a festive mood, and with that in mind I’d like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas! See you in the New Year.