As the snow-capped Nanshan Mountain in Shuixigou Township glows in the morning sunlight, ski instructor Wang Gecheng picks up his equipment and sets off for work on the slopes.
This is no ordinary mountain for Wang; it is a "gold mountain."
For four consecutive snow seasons, Wang came from his hometown to the ski resort of Silkroad Resort in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, to "strike gold" in the form of tuition fees.
"Sometimes there are up to four tourists learning skiing from me every day. I can earn hundreds of yuan a day," he said.
The ski resort is the first resort in Xinjiang with the high "5S" grading, and has several popular pistes, attracting many ski lovers across the country each year. Looking up from the foot of the Nanshan Mountain, one sees the pistes neatly arranged on the huge slope and skiers gliding fluently down, leaving their mark in the form of beautiful curves.
As soon as the 2022-2023 snow season started, Li Jinyang from central China's Hunan Province flew to Xinjiang. "I just planned to stay for a few days, but the snow here was so good that I decided to ski for another half a month," Li said. "I will also go to a snow resort in Altay in northern Xinjiang."
Located in the golden latitudes of ice and snow, Xinjiang is rich in ice-and-snow resources. In this respect, it is comparable to the European Alps and the Rocky Mountains of North America.
There are more than 18,600 large and small glaciers covering over 24,000 square km, accounting for 42 percent of the glacier area in China. The region has become a preferred destination for ice-and-snow sports, due to a large amount of thick powder snow, a good climate, low wind speeds, bright sunshine and high mountains with moderate slopes.
"Since the snow season started this year, I have seen an influx of tourists from across the country. I receive a lot of consulting calls for car rentals each day," said Li Bo, who is in charge of a recreational vehicle (RV) rental company in Xinjiang. "My company has more than 50 RVs but still fails to meet the demand when the tourism peak arrives."
To better develop ice-and-snow tourism, the Xinjiang authorities have introduced a series of measures in recent years, including improving the quality of ski pistes and upgrading the service facilities.
So far, multiple ice-and-snow tourism products have been launched, integrating ice-and-snow sports, ice-and-snow sightseeing, folk custom experiences and hot-spring spas.
Xinjiang has also proposed building an ice-and-snow tourism economic development core area relying on Urumqi and Altay. On Dec. 28, 2022, the first ice-and-snow tourism train set off from Urumqi to Fuyun, with a stop in Altay.
"It's becoming more convenient and faster for tourists from outside Xinjiang to travel to Altay to ski. They can choose to transit via the cities of Urumqi, Xi'an and Lanzhou, or fly directly from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen," said Dai Xingxing, deputy general manager of Xinjiang Altay Tourism Group.
The boom in ice-and-snow tourism is bringing more business opportunities to local equipment manufacturers.
Dozens of machines in the factory of Xinjiang Huatong Taike Play Equipment Co., Ltd. are running at full capacity to produce a range of ski equipment.
"We sell the ski equipment, such as the ski ropeways, not only to scenic spots and snow resorts in Xinjiang, but to other regions in China," said Wang Wen, head of the company. "We benefit a lot from the thriving ice-and-snow tourism industry."