Greetings all! Over in China right now, it's time to start the blog as we are into day 4. Going to be heading into the real wilds soon, so not sure if I will have any internet access. As it stands, the internet access is extremely limited (in terms of what websites I can actually access). I have no other social media, no access to Gmail but you'll be happy to hear that there are no problems with Epicski! I can post away here quite happily at the moment. My VPN I bought does not work, so it doesn't look like I will be able to get onto Facebook until I get home. Let's get into what has been. an amazing adventure so far. Absolutely loving it out here. For those that don't know, we are in China with a small group of skiers checking out some new freeride options in the far NW of China in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. We are close to Mongolia and not too far from Kazakstan. It is a wild and beautiful area.
The ski industry is absolutely exploding in China right now. They have been building several new ski areas a month (not that we Westerners would know) and they want to have around 800 resorts by the time the Beijing winter Olympics come around. It's pretty crazy stuff but the money over here for skiing right now, is ridiculous. These are very exciting times for the Chinese ski industry right now. Traditionally most of the resorts have been built close to population centers, with little consideration given to terrain and snowfall (build it and they will come, plus add lot's of snow making..... seems to be the mantra). Consequently, they don't really have much skiing to write home about but finally they are starting to look at areas (they happen to be very remote though) where they actually have mountains and have decent snow. The Altay mountains have that, but they have been very hard to access, until now. The airports are in and the roads are being built. There are some resorts and more are planned, but the exciting opportunity is in the new heli and cat skiing operations that are starting up. That is why we are here, to check out these new operations and see if the area is a viable option for us to start a program. This is that adventure.......
Saturday 18th March – Travel Day
With the late departure from India, I only had 1 ½ days back home in Denver. My body clock was therefore all over the place when I left for China on Saturday late that night. Thankfully I only had a quick flight to San Francisco where I would stay overnight. Then it was the 11 hour flight to Beijing the next day. That was relatively easy (long distance flights are feeling pretty easy after all the travel I have been doing lately). I flew United again and this time flew in regular economy. They had one of the big old 747’s (it’s been a while since I have flown on one of those) and to my disappointment, I saw that they didn’t have the personal entertainment systems (no headrest tv screens), but they did have the system to connect you to their entertainment system through wi-fi (and free movies) via your smart phone or laptop. So I ended up watching a couple of movies on my phone and got a few hours’ sleep. Thankfully the middle seat was empty so we had a decent amount of room.
The flight arrived a little early in Beijing, but there were a lot of international flights arrive at the same time. It was super busy at immigration and a bit of a shock to the system (already confused enough as it was!), when I saw the queue. Thankfully it moved pretty quickly and I was through immigration in about 30 minutes. Both my bags arrived and I was able to head to my hotel. Unfortunately there was no one there to meet me (I was staying at the Ibis near the airport and they had a free shuttle), so I went to an information kiosk and they have staff who speak English. They called the hotel and asked them to send a driver. Then they gave me a piece of paper with the Chinese translation of the hotel and my name on it. I went up 4 levels and outside to where they said to meet the car and about 20 minutes later, the car was there. Then it was a 15 minute drive to the hotel.
On first viewing, the hotel didn’t look like an Ibis, but sure enough, there was the branding as I stepped inside. I checked in and headed up to the room. This was a decent looking and new enough hotel from a distance, but when you got into the rooms, they looked pretty ramshackle and obviously lacked any maintenance. My room had obviously had water leaking underneath the bathroom door into the entrance and the wooden floor had started to buckle and crack. They had place plastic sticking tape over the top to try and cover it but it looked like a mess. Inside the bathroom the grout between the tiles was getting moldy, overall the hotel looked like it had been new once, but they did not do any repairs or proper cleaning. Anyway, $30 a night and I will just have to find a new hotel on the way back. No big deal.
It was about 7pm and I was hungry. I went downstairs to ask about food but they told me to go around the corner. There were 4 restaurants and I looked inside through the windows. The last one looked a little bigger and cleaner so I went in. They ushered me down to a table and I sat down. The menu was pretty big; thankfully they had some (funny) English translations and some helpful pictures. I had some exciting options in donkey meat, chicken and pig feet, fish heads and so on, but I went for the safe chicken curry option and a beer. They like to drink warm drinks in China as it turns out, the beer was pretty warm so using Google translate, I was able to ask for a cold beer. Thankfully they have those for pesky foreigners like me. The food came out in a massive bowl (enough for 2 to 3 people), but it was good and I put a decent dent in it. I had a few groups of drunken business men come past (one so drunk he stumbled into the table) but they apologized and went on their way. No problem. I headed back to the hotel and then hit the internet. I finally got the VPN to turn on and I was able to get online. Grant’s flight was late but he was on his way. I would meet him the next day at 445am in the lobby in preparation for our flight to Aletai. Then it was off to sleep.