Chill out at Chinese Club Med

BY BILLY FREEMAN
Last updated 05:00 02/07/2010
Club Med Yabuli

COOL RECEPTION: If you're into the traditional Club Med touches, you'll find them in Yabuli, plus everything you'd traditionally expect to find at a winter wonderland.

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I never thought that the first time I ate frogs' legs, it would be in China.

Going to China is a lesson in the clash of eastern and western cultures.

Chinese frogs' legs was interesting enough, but I was really looking forward to the next item on my agenda - visiting China's first ever Club Med.

How would a symbol of western excess and decadence hold up in a country renowned for its reserve?

As it turns out, pretty well.

Club Med is mostly known for its laze-by-the-poolside-with-a-cocktail-style summer resorts, but this one, based in the far northeastern city of Yabuli, is a ski resort.

Skiing is a pastime that's gaining popularity in China, especially among young people, for whom disposable incomes are always rising.

Currently, most people who visit the resort are young professionals from the big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, but once Club Med officially takes over the running of the resort in November, the amount of international tourists may rise.

A big attraction of Yabuli - which is at an altitude of 1,374 metres - is its relatively long snowfall period.

Snow falls there between November and March, sometimes even stretching into early April.

And the weather there is perfect for skiing - clear and cold.

It got to -20 degrees Celsius when I was there in March, towards the end of the season, but can get as low as -45 degrees Celsius.

Just in case the snowfall isn't as good as expected at any given time, the resort also has eight snow-making machines.

It is a fair hike to get there however - a flight to the regional Chinese centre of Harbin in the province of Heilongjiang, then a four-and-a-half hour 194km drive to the resort.

Local government officials are considering building an airport nearby.

If you're into the traditional Club Med touches, you'll find them in Yabuli, plus everything you'd traditionally expect to find at a winter wonderland.

Yabuli has the longest mountain slopes in Asia, despite Japan being the usual Asian skiing destination.

There's plenty of accommodation as well, with 284 rooms in two separate hotel blocks.

IF YOU GO

Club Med Yabuli is at 469 metres, in a national park in the heart of a mountain chain covered in pine forests, this is where China's national ski team does its training. Ideal for skiers of all levels and ages, it has 32km of ski slopes in the heart of magnificent landscapes in the Sun Mountain skiing domain.

Rates for five nights: From $NZ1,313/Adult (12+) with the Early Bird Offer. Book now and save up to $150 per adult (12+).

* The writer was a guest of Club Med and Qantas.

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