When Shen Wei and his wife opened the first skiing equipment store in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality five years ago, many cast doubt on their idea of developing an ice-snow market in a city with rare snowfall.
The megacity is even dubbed the "furnace" due to its scorching summers. "People thought it was ridiculous for us to sell snow equipment in a 'furnace.' They just couldn't figure out who would possibly buy our skiing gear," Shen said.
However, being a skiing enthusiast himself, Shen always hoped that the underdeveloped ice-snow sports market would expand.
In 2014, when Shen and his wife were helping a friend plan a surprise proposal in a skiing resort in Sichuan Province, Shen developed an interest in the adventure sport. Since then, the couple often flew to northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to ski.
"At that time, there were just about 50 skiing enthusiasts in Chongqing and they had to travel to the neighboring Sichuan Province for maintenance works of their snowboards," Shen said with a sigh, adding that he once carried 20 such snowboards in his luggage during a trip to the provincial capital Chengdu.
Shen thought to herself -- "Why can't we have our own snow equipment store with maintenance services?" and came up with the idea to open the store in Chongqing.
Shen has also established the city's first skiing club "Chongqing Extremport," offering an offline networking platform for skiers. In just five years, the club's membership has soared from 50 in 2017 to 1,500 today.
The club organizes six to seven skiing tours annually and their main destination is Xinjiang's Altay City, which is known for its long winter season that can last up to eight months and attracts skiers from all across the world.
The frequent visits by the Chongqing skiers surprised the local tourism bureau in Xinjiang.
"We have formed a very good relationship with each other now. Xinjiang is very glad to see more people from southern parts of China join their ice-snow industry. Over the years, our club has organized monthly skiing trips and tourism activities to Xinjiang from November to April," said Shen, adding that 80 members even chose to spend their Spring Festival holiday this year in Xinjiang, indulging in skiing and leisure.
Chongqing did experience winter sports popularity that Shen dreamed about. Ahead of the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, Shen opened another snow equipment store near an indoor skiing resort in the city.
"The Beijing 2022 has inspired more Chinese to participate in ice and snow sports. The newly built skiing resort and the growing number of skiing lovers and professional coaches all signal the burgeoning momentum of the industry," Shen said. "I hope more and more people would join us in this ice-snow fervor." -