The Simple Stats
Location – Roughly 200 kilometers east-southeast of Harbin
Season – Mid November to late March
Pistes/Trails – 11 (9 Alpine, intermediate to advanced; 1 Nordic; 1 Beginner)
Lifts – 9 (incl. a new 6-seat gondola (enclosed lift) and a new 4-seat open chairlift)
Additional Activities – A snowboarding park, a toboggan run, a skating rink, snowmobile trails
Target Group – Beginner, intermediate and advanced skiers as well as fun-loving snowboarders, tobogganers, skaters and snowmobilers
As the main training base for the Chinese national ski teams (the Alpine, Nordic/Cross-Country, and Freestyle teams), Yabuli Ski Resort, located on Yabuli Sun Mountain, part of the Changbai Mountain Range, is – not too surprisingly – China's largest and best ski resort in terms of overall quality, and, in particular, in terms of the gradient and quality of the pistes/ trails. With 9 intermediate-to-advanced Alpine pistes – the longest of which measures 3 kilometers and has an impressive drop of over 800 meters measured from start to finish – and with a first-class, 5-kilometer-long Nordic (cross-country) trail, Yabuli Ski Resort caters primarily to the experienced skier, though it also has a very wide, forgiving beginner piste at 500 meters in length, which is long enough to be challenging without being overly daunting.
Yabuli Ski Resort has 9 lifts with a combined capacity of 1500 persons per hour, which essentially guarantees that there is never a queue. On your way up the mountain, you will be enthralled with views of snow-clad forests broken by steep, rocky ridges and deep ravines, making the journey up the mountain a priceless experience in itself. Because of the extremely northerly latitude of Heilongjiang Province – the lowest winter temperature here is minus 40 degrees Celsius while the average winter temperature is minus 10 degrees Celsius – snows fall frequently and heavily; in fact, both the quantity and quality of Yabuli's snow is considered the best among China's ski resorts.
While the average annual snowfall near the base of Yabuli Sun Mountain is somewhat limited (from a low of only 20 centimeters to a high of roughly 50 centimeters), the average annual snowfall near the top of the mountain is a generous 100 centimeters. Should mother nature herself fail to provide (and granted, the distribution of snowfall natually varies locally, depending on many factors, including the wind), Yabuli Ski Resort has a fleet of 8 snow-making machines backed up by a fleet of 6 snow-grooming machines, so fresh snow and optimal powder is never an issue at Yabuli Ski Resort.
Skiers should be aware that the resort is divided into a competition and a leisure section, with the competition section being reserved for national-team skiers, both foreign and domestic. Note that Yabuli Ski Resort served as the venue for the 3rd Asian Winter Games in 1996. The resort has a large staff of ski instructors – upwards of 50 instructors – who are all highly qualified skiers and who all have excellent pedagogical talents, even if they don't all speak English equally fluently.
Yabuli is a very modern ski resort with some of the most state-of-the-art equipment available, from lifts to snow-making machines to snow-grooming machines, and of course the resort is equipped with modern lodgings in variety of price/amenity categories, from bed-and-breakfast hostels popular with students to 3-star hotels that cater to more discriminating tastes/budgets, the two most notable among the latter category of lodgings being the Tinyihu Hotel and the Windmill Village Hotel which offer the most modern conveniences such as cable TV, indoor swimming pools, fitness rooms, bowling alleys and billiard halls, as well as bars, restaurants, gift shops and Internet cafés, and they even have a special play room for smaller children. The combined bed capacity of Yabuli Ski Resort is roughly 600, distributed rather equally among budget and "starred" options.
In addition to its ski pistes, Yabuli Ski Resort offers snowboarding, tobogganing (the Yabuli Toboggan Run is the world's longest) and snowmobiling, and it has a first-rate skating rink. At Yabuli Ski Resort, the visitor can rent everything from supplementary equipment to a complete equipment package – you can expect to ski, snowboard, toboggan, or to ride a snowmobile here even if you arrive in ordinary street clothing.
The Yabuli Sun Mountain area is of course more than just a venue for wintertime skiing, it also offers a range of year-round activities such as "grass skiing", hot-air ballooning and para-gliding, mini-golf and tennis. Or, if nature hiking is your thing, you can explore the forests of the Changbai Mountain Range where you will surely run across squirrels, hares and pheasants, as well as a plethora of birds of all types of feathers. With a bit of luck (i.e., depending on the wind direction, since wild animals generally have an excellent sense of smell) – and a good pair of binoculars – you might be blessed with a glimpse of a bear, a wild boar, a deer or a snow leopard, but you will have to walk very softly. Nighttime spottings of badgers, on the other hand, are commonplace.
If you want to rent a car, the drive from Harbin Airport is about 230 kilometers, or a 3-hour drive, roughly. There are of course tourist buses that run to and from the ski resort from the city of Harbin. These can be caught at Harbin's from Longyun Bus Station.