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Trans-siberian skiing

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all

I'm in the middle of doing the Trans-Siberian Railway (currently in Krasnoyarsk), starting in Beijing, and taking the train all the way back to London. Hoping to get in a bit of skiing along the way so thought I'd write up some of our experiences.

Beijing

Beijing has a few different ski areas around the city, but the one that seemed the best was a place called Nanshan, about 45mins north-east of the city. It has a fairly useful English language website, and while my expectations were not high I thought it would be worth a shot.

Getting there

This is really cheap depending on your comfort levels and provided you avoid the scam artists! For example, we tried to get directions for a cab from the hotel but things got lost in translation and we ended up with some bloke who wanted 1000RMB (about £100) to go there and back.

Instead we took the local bus from Dongzhimen to Miyun (about 7RMB each, takes a bit over an hour) and then a 'taxi' – aka anyone-with-a-car and nothing to do – for 30RMB. The taxi ride was about 4km.

Lift pass

Upon arrival we paid an entry fee to the park of 20RMB, then went inside to find out where to get a lift pass and ski hire. Fortunately the cashier inside the park spoke enough English to understand what we wanted and how the system works.

It was 180RMB per person for a 3 hour pass, including ski hire, and they took a significant deposit (around 900RMB) from which other items could be hired if required (and/or you ran off with the kit). It ended up about 1300RMB for the pass and a deposit for both of us (900RMB would be returned after the gear was given back).

Gear hire

After paying for the (paper) pass and sticking it to our jackets we went to hire the kit. None of the staff behind the counter seemed to speak any English whatsoever, but I had written down diagrams with our boot sizes, height, and weight. Of course, they didn't seem to use Mondo sizing and wanted what I think is Euro style shoe size? So my 29.5 was a bit confusing until some bloke remembered the chart on the wall and matched that up with a 47. The '47' marked boot actually had 29.5 firmly engraved somewhere so I was able to double check that myself. This was not quite the largest boot they had, I think they may have gone up to a 30.5, but worth keeping in mind if you plan a visit.

The boots themselves seemed to have 'Flex 45' written on them – I could have misunderstood this – and were extremely soft, although there wasn't too much movement inside the boot as the liner was still quite fluffy (?) and hadn't packed out yet. Perhaps they haven't been worn much?

My 47 boot was paired with a '47' ski – it seems that they never actually adjust the bindings, they just give you a pair of skis that are matched with the boot. I was given a 160cm ski with a giant gouge in the middle that looked like it hadn't been serviced for years. It didn't look like there were any larger skis. I'm 193cm and 95kg so they were probably a 'tad' undersized. They didn't even look at DIN settings/weight etc.

My girlfriend (about 183cm, 75kg) was also paired with 160cm skis, hers were lucky enough not to have a gouge but instead very blunt edges.

The ski area

So off we go with our undersized poorly serviced skis to the ski area. It's quite small, as expected, maybe about 150m of vertical from the very top but more like 75m for the 'main' area. Beijing is very cold, but also very dry, so all the snow was man made and it looked a bit like skiing in the middle of a cold desert. Or industrial wasteland. The runs themselves were quite short (think outdoor fridge) but there was a decent enough variety. There were a couple of 'black' runs which were genuinely quite black, but seemingly deisgned to be painfully difficult rather than an enjoyable challenge. Steep and icy, giant moguls and ruts all the way down. We took the lift up to take a look and the view was great but the runs themselves were pretty horrible and inexperienced skiers were tumbling dangerously all over the run (barely able to stand for more than one turn). So with the high risk factor of these other skiers and our decidedly ropey kit, we decided to take the lift back down.

Losing the will to ski – a rare experience for this snowhead!

A coffee stop and a few runs later we've basically exhausted the options and had enough. The man made snow and lack of waxing (?) makes it impossible to get any speed up, we've got no grip, the lifts are tediously and confusingly slow, the other skiers are largely terrible and oblivious to others.

The 'skied in China' box has been 'ticked' but I wouldn't really recommend it to others, unless for some reason you've brought your own gear. The only competent skiers we saw at Nanshan seemed to have their own kit. Most others seemed to treat it as a funfair rather than a skill to be learned – I would be surprised if many of them had ever had a lesson.

More skiing in China... or not

The original plan included skiing at Jihua or Erlongshan or Yabuli near Harbin (one of the stops along the way... perhaps more on this later) but this experience was enough to highlight that just because it's skiing, doesn't mean it's a good idea. That said, we're optimistic about skiing some other stops on the Trans-Siberian towards Moscow, so it'll be fun to see what they have to offer.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
A couple of pics

From the top lift looking over lower area:




The black run
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@driz, fascinating report, good luck with the trip. Look forward to the next installment.
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Fascinating.

Having only one size of ski available with boots sizes marked and no adjustment seems remarkably efficient. It would make Sunday mornings in some hire shops I know go much more smoothly.

And another reason why the Chinese are going to take over the world.

P.S. FLEX 45 probably meant exactly what it said on the box Shocked
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Makes a change from our usual run of trip reports! That black run looks better than a lot of European slopes at Christmas. snowHead Do tell us more. snowHead snowHead snowHead
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You'll need to Register first of course.
Brilliantdriz! Amazing pics! Keep it coming!
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Excellent. And fascinatingly different. Thanks!
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
WOW! Great pics.

Looking forward to updates Smile
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You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
I think we should instigate a "trip report of the year" award. This one would take some beating.
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Ski the Net with snowHeads
Quote:

The original plan included skiing at Jihua or Erlongshan or Yabuli near Harbin (one of the stops along the way... perhaps more on this later) but this experience was enough to highlight that just because it's skiing, doesn't mean it's a good idea.

Yabuli is the largest ski area in China, I believe? So perhaps there's more terrain to play with.

Though I suspect the gear situation may not improve.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
wow on a whole another level! i still like to go and give it a try for fun (because i'm mad!)

good luck and have a great trip.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Thanks for all your comments! At risk of going off-skiing a bit here...

Harbin, China

Harbin is a bit of a winter experience mecca for Chinese domestic tourists I think... the train on the way up from Beijing was fairly packed. There are a few skiing areas around (I think) - but most are at least 50km from the city.

@abc, yeah Yabuli is meant to be the largest although I think you're right that some of the gear issues would still remain. I think it doesn't get all that much snow either. We didn't think it would be worth a 3 hour trip one way for something a little risky when we only had 3 days in Harbin itself. Some of the other ski areas might have been possible to reach as they were closer, but getting a taxi was nigh on impossible, and getting one to take us 50km away seemed like it would either be a rip off or we'd never make our way back.

So the main reason for visiting Harbin was really the snow and ice festival, which is actually at 3 separate locations - there's Harbin Ice and Snow World, the Harbin Snow Sculpture Art Fair and another smaller ice sculpture exhibition in a park in the centre of the city. The BBC usually has some coverage of this each year, basically just glowing blocks of ice! Very Happy

Some pics:









A quick vid:


http://youtube.com/v/1-GSxPkVO2E
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
WOW!

That alone will be worth the trip!!!

I need to ask my mate who works in Shanghai if they've done it and how best to go about it. You definitely got me motivated!
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
Briefly carrying on with some of the stops, perhaps might help someone else if they did a similar trip...

Ulan Ude

Next stop after Harbin was the Russian city of Ulan Ude, capital of the Buryat region. Unable to find info on skiing here so gave it a miss, although there did seem to be decent sized hills in the vicinity. They had a small number of ice sculptures in the main square with Lenin's head, and I decided to injure my wrist on one of them.


http://youtube.com/v/EuzK5wtyppk

Irkutsk/Listvyanka

We stayed one night in Irkutsk before heading down to Listvyanka, a touristy town on the shores of Lake Baikal. There is a small ski area with one lift at one end of town and I saw a few boarders and skiers carrying kit along the main road. Sadly, with my now very painful wrist I didn't want to risk skiing and injuring it further if I fell. Which is a bloody shame because about 20cm of fresh light powdery snow fell on our first morning there :/ Not sure on rental facilities but I think it would be worth checking out if anyone else did the same trip.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Finally back to skiing!

Krasnoyarsk

Our main reason for stopping here was in fact skiing. There was a thread (http://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?t=21409) about 10 years ago on here about Bobrovy Log – a small ski area about 20 minutes southwest of the city. It also has a fairly good website and was mentioned in the Lonely Planet Trans-siberian guide, so seemed a safe bet.

At the moment £1 is worth almost exactly 100 rubles so made currency conversions a piece of cake (and also everything very cheap).

Getting there

With the ruble being quite weak we opted for a bit of luxury at the Hilton for about £50 per night. It's about 3km north of the city centre. Asked the hotel to order us a taxi and the 25min journey cost about £4.50.

Lift passes

Bobrovy Log is organised a bit differently to Nanshan – you can rent gear for 2 hours, 4 hours, or all day. We opted for 4 hours. It requires you fill in a form in Russian and hand over your passport as a deposit – fortunately one of the staff members working there helped us through the entire process which made it quite straightforward. Lift pass as sold on a 'per uplift' basis – 10 'ups' costing about £7. Altogether, for both of us at the 'VIP' (ie top) level of kit and 10 uplifts cost about £35.

The kit
Unlike China, the gear here was generally fantastic. The boots and skis were in good condition and were better than the 'red' level gear I had in Obergurgl. I ended up with a pair of Rossignol Experience 83s @ 176cm – looked to be in near new condition.

There's not much more to say really – it was of good standard, probably equivalent to black or gold level rental gear in Europe.

The ski area

There are two main lifts on either side of the central complex. On one side, it is more or less just a wide straight piste back down which is floodlit and used for nightskiing – it had a few park features, and some people doing some slalom training (some of whom were at a very high standard so great fun to watch). This lift is a fixed grip 4 person chair with a midstation for those who wished to avoid the quite steep black/red section at the top. About 300m vertical, I think.

On the other, which is where we spent most of our time, are a few runs coming off the one lift – blue and reds – and from the top of that another short (free) tow to a couple of blacks and a red. This lift was a detachable 4 person chair – got you up the top very quickly. The runs all go down through the trees back to the bottom of the lift, and are genuinely very very enjoyable cruisy runs. Video below is of the lower half of the blue run. Total vertical is about 320metres.

Sadly, the snow cover this year seemed quite poor so only the runs covered by snow-making were open – so we mostly stuck to the blue and red just off the top. The black off the tow didn't look particularly challenging, but after my wrist injury I have been banned from evaluating risk so we didn't try it. The red off the tow was closed due to snow coverage.

We ended up doing a few runs, coffee, few runs, lunch, then made the most of the rest of our alloted 10, finishing just on the 4 hour mark.

The lunch stop was worth mentioning too – self service cafeteria in the main building, but very modern and clean better than your average self-service canteen. Also worth noting is that the toilets were clean, had toilet seats, and had soap... Russia: 1, France (perhaps specifically PdS): 0. Wink

I'm not sure what the general consensus is on Russians in the Alps, but everyone in Siberia has been very friendly and welcoming, even when there's been no common language. Skier etiquette was also very good!

Overall, Bobrovy Log was brilliant. I wouldn't make a trip to Krasnoyarsk specifically to ski it, but 100% worth a stop if you're passing through.

Video of the flatter lower half of blue:


http://youtube.com/v/KzuWTBHOmcs

Pics:



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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:

The black off the tow didn't look particularly challenging, but after my wrist injury I have been banned from evaluating risk so we didn't try it.

Laughing
Some more thoroughly entertaining reports, thanks. It's good to have some of the background as well as the specifically skiing bits. snowHead
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I'm enjoying this - thanks for taking the time to post it, driz

I guess you get the odd hour to while away on the train?
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Seen this on aunty https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-55529089
So bumping a thread ive not seen before
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Looks like driz has been detained in Siberia...

I went to a hill outside Moscow in the late 90s for an “outdoor fridge” experience, maybe 150m of slope. I was boarding at the time. It was OK for a quick fix, nothing more.

If the train stops at Ulaanbataar for a day, there is a bunny slope at Sky Resort. https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293956-d12049044-Reviews-Sky_Resort-Ulaanbaatar.html
Trouble is it doesn’t snow much in UB, the air is too cold and dry.

It’s a dream to go to Harbin.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
@driz, Great trip report, somehow I missed this at the time.

I was in fact in Harbin around the same time, early February 2015!

We took a taxi to a ski resort near Harbin for a day of skiing called "Harbin Jihua Ski Resort"

Can't remember many details unfortunately, but it was a small resort. Worth it for us for the novelty of skiing in China.

There was very little depth of natural snow off-piste, the base was probably less than 50cm, but the pistes were reasonable. I think it's mostly artificial snow. Harbin and the surrounding area is very cold but also very dry in the winter, they don't get much snowfall but anything that does fall will stick around. I wasn't bothered about the snow much because I was heading to Hokkaido the following week!

The majority of the rental skis avaliable were old straight 1980s skis...





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