China-invented alpine ski orienteering ends first season in Zhangjiakou

By Lu Wenao in Zhangjiakou Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/14 18:32:51

Teams of skiers completed a grueling test of endurance at the maiden International Alpine Ski Orienteering Open final at the Wanlong and Genting Ski Resorts in Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province last weekend, with the winners crossing the finish line in just under three hours.

The China-invented sport has teams of three racers who use either downhill skis or snowboards to race down different slopes at a ski resort, with a five-hour cutoff time. 

They are required to check in at every checkpoint on the slopes, and then take a cable car up the mountain again to race down a different slope to visit other checkpoints, some of which are not easy to find and racers may miss them on the way down and have to redo the run.

The winning team of three skiers from the Wanlong-Sanmei club, finished the course in 2 hours, 56 minutes and 56 seconds. 

"Competing at our home venue gave us an advantage but what really matters are orienteering skills," said Ma Weina, a Sanmei club member. 

"Team effort is also very crucial as every team needs to adapt to different conditions through different routes on the slopes."

He Kexin, gold medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in artistic gymnastics, participated in the event after taking up snowboarding just last year.

"It takes relentless practice to perfect your skills, just like gymnastics," He told reporters after missing the cutoff time. 

With Beijing hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, "there's an increase in the number of skiers these years," said He, who is a teacher at Beijing Normal University. "I think I will bring some of my students to the competition in the future."

There have been three such competitions this winter. 

The first was held on January 19 in Beidahu, Jilin Province and the second stop was at Yabuli, Heilongjiang Province on February 23. The four ski resorts will host the competition again next year as they were named as regular hosts of the competition.

Gu Haoning, a senior official with the Beijing 2022 organizing committee, said hosting such grass-roots event will help China reach the goal of having 300 million people take up ice and snow sports by 2022. 

Alpine Ski Orienteering originated with a competition among members of the Beijing-based Xueyuan ski club. ­After hosting five competitions in ­China, the sport started to attract skiers from overseas including Czech Republic and the US. 

Zhang Peng, head of the organizing committee, is expecting the sport to attract participants the same way marathon races do, which feature elite runners and weekend joggers. 

"We are creating a mass participation event rather than a pure competition," Zhang said. "Ski races should be festivals for those who love this sport."

Zhang said organizers are in talks with officials from countries including Finland, Norway and Czech Republic that might stage an event in their country, making alpine ski orienteering the first China-initiated winter sport to be held abroad.

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