In China, I must remember that part of the reason that I am here is the experience. If I wanted everything to work the way I am used to it working, I should be back in our home country.
Doing the same thing (such as skiing) in a new country sometimes produces different results and experiences. If you want to go skiing at Cui Hua Shan, it is best to get up at 6:00 am, because you have four buses or taxis to negotiate that takes about 2 hours over the 40 kilometers to get there.
But who ever got up at 6:00 am unless the house was on fire? I got up once at 6:00 am and I have always regretted that day.
Therefore, I went out to the village near Chi Hua Shan and stayed at a hotel – at hotel that was right at zero degrees. Think of it as winter camping with all the comforts of home. Nothing is as cold as a hotel at zero degrees. It feels colder because we expect it to be warm. I have camped out at minus 25 degrees C in Alaska in the US and I still felt the hotel was colder.
The only unfrozen toilet was a floor below, but there was a nice electric blanket on the bed. Look at it this way, in Sweden or Norway, they have motel rooms that are completely made out of ice and cost $300/day. You are getting the same thing at a much better price!
We took a cab from Xi’an to Chang’an which is a few kilometers south of Xi’an for 10 RMB. From Chang’an to village next to Cui Hua Shan (for which I cannot remember the name), there is a bus leaving every ten minutes for Cui Hua Shan because there is a large university there (Xian Translation University) and students are always going back and forth (but possibly not during the Chinese New Year).
At the village, there are taxis to take you up to the Cui Hua Shan (Cui Hua Shan is a park, but the only name I have found for it is Jade Flower Mountain), The price for open air taxi often depends upon where your ancestors were born. As always, a Chinese friend helps. The general fee is between 10 to 30 RMB.
At the park entrance (which requires a fee to enter which I believe is about 35 RMB in the winter) is the last bus up to the ski area. But again one’s ancestors seem to come into play. We decided to walk since even with a Chinese friend we could not decide how to get the price down or learn when the bus might leave. If you want a beautiful walk in the winter try walking this road in Cui Hua Shan. It was beautiful with the ice crystals and frost on the trees and bushes. It is stunning. Go there just to walk through a winter wonderland. The bus eventually did start and passed us, but it did seem to stop for others who were walking. Two hours later we arrived at the ski resort. We had a wonderful walk, but it did interfere with our ski day.
At the ski resort, we rented ski, poles, and boots, but gloves, hats, jackets etc. were also available.
I have a lot of skiing experience myself having been raised in Salt Lake City, Utah where the 2002 Winter Olympics were held. I am some what limited in Chinese, but I was surprised when someone gave my friend a pair of ski boots and no apparent instruction on how to put them on. Eventually, someone showed up, but I could have helped my friend.
Getting the skis was educational. I was handed a pair of skis and told to use them. Skis have bindings to keep your boots attached to your skis. Generally, bindings are adjusted to your weight. I guess it was like clothing in China: one size fits all. I weigh more than most Chinese. The binding might release too soon, but I would not break a leg. I felt my friend after a brief discourse was happy with the bindings.
The lift to carry people to the top of the ski hill is what I would call a T-bar in the U.S. It is like a rope tow, but it has a bar shaped like a “T” that you can sit on that pulls you up the hill. Sometimes in the US it is called a J bar. On this lift, the modern technique is to have the T-bar have the seat with spring so that it is easier to get off and on.
I was amused at the T-bar lift to haul us up the hill. In Europe and the US ski resorts, they generally assist you to get on the lift. But as my friend went to get on this lift, the person working there stayed in his chair and did little. I will admit that on this type of lift that not as much help is needed, but my Chinese friend had no experience at all. We both managed to get on the lift. It was kind of like having fun, but different. Later in the day, they had people helping skiers get on the lift and all along the lift to help skiers if they fell down and to help them back on the lift.
Cui Hua Shan is located in the Qinling Mountains about 40 kilometers south from Xi’an and they are a ski resort developer’s nightmare. The mountains, in my opinion, are too steep for good ski areas. Generally, ski resort developers like gentle slopes because it is good for beginners and intermediate skiers (the majority of skiers). The Qinling Mountains are some of the steepest mountains that I have ever seen (I believe this is because it is an ancient uplifted ocean that erodes easily) Therefore, the ski slope is totally man made of only 6 to 10 percent degree slope. It is the most gentle ski slope I have ever seen. But it works great for beginners! I have heard of man made snow, but this is a man made mountain or hill. However, if you are a beginner skier this place is the best place to start skiing that I have ever seen.
I did have some success teaching my friend how to ski and I did not destroy my back. Speaking of destroying my back, there were no ski jumps and my back was probably very grateful. I have been taken down the ski hill twice in a sled because I had broken my leg. Other times I skied down dripping blood. I have had a long troubled relationship with ski jumps, but both I and the ski jumps are going into counseling to work on the problem.
The fee for the resort as I remember was between 200 to 300 RMB for a full day of skiing, and less for a half day. It was not crowded when we were there and I had the unique experience of being the best skier on the hill!
It was worth it to take a friend to ski, but if you are an advanced or intermediate skier it might not be worth it to you. I have heard of another ski resort in the area, but I have yet to get to that one yet.
After two or three hours of skiing, we headed back. We were in a hurry and paid the higher price to get the bus moving. I don’t think my ancestors were involved this time (it was 80 RMB).