The Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, which has abundant natural ice and snow resources, has taken advantage of the upcoming 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games to spur rapid development of winter sports tourism.
Liu Quan, deputy director of the region's culture and tourism bureau, said Xinjiang has "thick snow" that is ideal for skiing. The area has a favorable climate, low wind speeds, moderate temperatures, abundant sunshine and big mountains.
"China's ski resorts with a drop of more than 1,000 meters are all in Xinjiang, which has the best skiing conditions in the country," he said.
The ski resorts are close to cities and connected by convenient railways, civil aviation and highways. The Silk Road International Ski Resort, for example, is 50 kilometers from Urumqi, the regional capital, while the Jiangjunshan ski resort is in the city of Altay.
The region also boasts rich ethnic customs and ice and snow scenic spots, hot springs and organic food. Such features all add up to diverse tourism products combining winter sports, sightseeing, folklore experiences and hot spring bathing, Liu said.
Alayi Tapayi, who works at the Jiangjunshan ski resort, said Altay has one of the best natural skiing areas in the country and is known as the "snow capital of China".
In recent years, the city government has promoted a series of winter sports tourism projects, including an ice and snow tourism arts festival, ice and snow tours, and winter fairs. The tourism has motivated herdsmen and farmers to open homestays and run catering services, becoming an important way to increase their incomes.
The ski resort, built in 2009, is just 1.6 km from the city center. It has 33 trails with a total length of more than 30 km. With well-rounded facilities, it has hosted six national skiing events and attracted about 7,000 tourists a day from all over the country, he said.
He added that the resort has helped create 20,000 jobs and increased per capita incomes by 18,000 yuan ($2,829).
Xinjiang has also made full use of its ice and snow resources to build venues and provide services for Team China athletes preparing for the Beijing Winter Olympics, which will kick off on Feb 4, said Gul Ablim, director of the region's sports department.
Since October, Xinjiang has received 24 teams and 841 people for training. The region has also established its own teams of short-track speed skaters, cross-country skiers and Alpine skiers, she said.
One athlete from Xinjiang has qualified for speed skating events at the Winter Olympics, and two are expected to compete in cross-country skiing events, she said.