Beidahu, the largest ski area in Jilin Province, is a good example of the challenges that face a large destination ski resort in regions of China not associated with a major city. Massive up front investments, years of subsidizing losses to maintain a high class full mountain facility while the client base builds and delays in needed financings all create a high level of financial uncertainty. A potential 2006 partnership with the North American ski resort giant Intrawest, followed by a failed sale to Melco China Resorts in 2008 has kept this promising top level ski resort from reaching its potential and forced it into a reduced operations mode while it seeks a plan that will assure its future. Large scale plans by the Jilin government for tourism and a sports based industrial park surround the ski resort with further promise, but have yet to get beyond the planning stage.
We visited there in January 2007. I was impressed. At the time, the area was preparing to host the Asian Winter Games in a couple of weeks and extensive preparations were underway for everything from giant pipes to mogul fields to world class jumping ramps. Unfortunately this limited some access to their trail system, but what I could access was certainly at the top end of the scale for China and certainly acceptable for any wooded trail mountain almost anywhere.
Beidahu operates on two mountains and the valley in between. Maximum vertical is about 2500'. The generally intermediate mountain is served by a multi chair lift system that gives you the choice of the lower half wide open terrain or the steeper trail terrain on top. The steeper mountain is served by a single gondola that has a mid mountain station if you do not want to go all the way. Trails down from the top range from intermediate to advanced. How well these mogul up is unclear as they were just being opened and readied for the races. All the lifts are new, mostly Dopplemeyer. There were zero waiting lines.
Located in Jilin Province, the area sees more natural snow than the southern areas although reliance on snow making is still a must. Beidahu has extensive capacity fed by its own dammed up lake where winter run off and year round rain are stored for the effort. While there I actually skied on a trail (closed, but I did not know at the time) that had a foot of fresh natural powder and had not been yet groomed. That is a rare event in China! Last winter, however, due to financial constraints on snow making, they were mostly operating on only one major trail on each mountain, #1 and #9. Best to call ahead to check conditions before planning a multi day excursion there. Hopefully, new owners will be able to increase the snow making capacity so that all of the mountain will be consistently open with good conditions.
Lodging at Beidahu is all at the base of the mountain in an expanded 200 room hotel. (Mid January 2007 mid-week the rooms ran about RMB400/night all in with Breakfast) Recent Salomon shaped skis are standard in the rentals as are Rossignol and other brand name boots. Lift tickets were about RMB180 and equipment, including clothing runs about another RMB140. Expect prices to be higher for the 2010/2011 season.
Dining on property is limited to a single dining room for all meals. Breakfast was Chinese style, lunch ran about 25RMB/person for a buffet of Chinese dishes and dinner was a choice of 50RMB for a buffet or order off the menu. For about the same cost per person this was certainly the better choice. Buffet food was OK but the menu food was actually pretty good. At night there is also the choice to walk a short distance off the property to a group of small local restaurants including Kang style seating. We tried the one on the right and next time would definitely try the one on the left instead.
Getting to Beidahu is about 4 hours from Beijing by way of a flight to Changchun and then a 1 1/2 hours cab ride (for about RMB350) to the mountain. You can take a bus from the airport to Jilin and then a ski resort bus from Jilin to the mountain for substantially less (unless you have 3 or more people) but the time would be much longer with waits and changeovers.