Rime and reason for skiing in Jilin

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Biquanhu Ski Resort in Jilin Province

What attracts people to stay and enjoy northeast China's Jilin Province when winter comes?

It naturally starts with skiing and snowboarding, said Li Jinxiu, vice governor of Jilin Province, who led a team of officials from ski-resource-rich cities and towns across the province to promote Jilin's winter tourism last week at the Jing An Shangri-La, West Shanghai.

Jilin boasts of having the best snow and ski facilities in Asia, with more than 30 ski resorts and 169 slopes qualified for professional ski sports and leisure activities.

Besides skiing during the winter times, the freezing fog which can cause ice sheaths to appear on trees along the Songhua River, the soothing mineral waters of the mountain hot springs and a diverse cultural heritage of the Korean, the Mongolian and Manchurian ethnic groups bordering North Korea and Russia combine to "offer a different winter vocation for travelers to Jilin," Li promised.

Geographically speaking, Jilin ski resorts lie within the world's "golden ski belt" like those in France, Italy and Switzerland.

Consistent snowfall and light, dry powder are a trademark feature of skiing in Jilin, boasting an average of five to six months of snow a season at temperatures of below 10.4 degrees Celsius.

In recent years, there has been a significant investment in lift systems, lodging, restaurants, equipment and ski schools at the ski resorts in Jilin.

For example, the Wanda Changbaishan International Resort, opened in Fusong County in 2012, is a 23-billion-yuan ($3.4 billion) project that includes a large ski resort, luxury hotels and alpine ski cabins.

The resort's skiing area covers 7 square kilometers and includes 43 ski slopes of varying difficulties with a combined length of 30 kilometers, making it the largest ski resort in Asia.

The recently developed Vanke Songhuahu Resort in Jilin City, however, has won the heart of many beginner skiers since opening last year. The BMW X1 Trail is so far the longest elementary trail in China with a total length of 4.1 kilometers. Speaking of ski schools, there is no better place to learn to ski or board at Songhuahu.

"Even if you are the clumsiest learner like me, we can have our ski specialists carry you, one-to-one, all the way down the slope for the pleasure of gliding from the peak to the bottom of the hill," said Zheng Guoxue, vice mayor of Jilin City.

Under the clear skies, travelers also get to see a white landscape of freezing fog, which sees dazzlingly white ice crystals formed on the trees along the city's Songhua River — a different kind of icy spectacle that comes courtesy of Mother Nature known as rime.

Jilin Province celebrates the phenomenon each year from mid-December to February with the Jilin International Rime Ice and Snow Festival. It includes ice-skating and skiing competitions, photo exhibitions and even rime-inspired poetry competitions.

Rime is most likely to appear in January, but sightings are not guaranteed. Even in January, rime only materializes for an average of 9.4 days.

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