By Julien Heon, super-special Chinese correspondent
You girls and guys canÃ¢â¬â¢t afford a week out west on the glacier? Your parents wonÃ¢â¬â¢t let you go? You think there is no way to enjoy the sport you love so much in the summer? Of course, thereÃ¢â¬â¢s sand dune skiing, but not everyone has a sand dune in his backyard.
You wish your resort looked like this.But in China, you can ski 365 days a year. Yes, 365 days a year. On grass. Grass skiing- who doesn't have a grass hill around his or her house? In the Province of Yunnan, situated on the southwest border of the People's Republic of China, in the foothills of the highest mountains in the world, the Himalayas, people ski year-round on grass.
Using the same boots as regular alpine skiing, bindings similar to snowblades, and exactly the same poles, this sport is barely known. With the skis made by Ongtex, this sport is reserved for healthy people. Not like regular skiing, to glide on the grass you need to put in some physical effort. You can go reasonably fast on these skis, and you have to be careful since there is no way to brake. You brake by putting one of your skis behind, perpendicular to the slope. The trail has been around for about three years, and some of the first experimenters are just beginning to be not too bad. Some of them try to copy our old dead sport, ballet skiing. These martial arts masters don't have the same ease as occidentals on skis.
Hey... they're cheaper than Salomons.The track is owned by the village, Tuanjie. The cost is 40 Yuan an hour, about four American dollars. It seems cheap, but when you realize that a meal is around five Yuan in that area, make the calculation. Grass skiing is a leisure reserved for the the higher social class. This price includes all the equipment, even poles and boots. They have what looks like a golf clubhouse where all the equipment is stored.
Not only do you need to be fit to actually ski, but also to go up the track, since there is no ski lift and the small track is accessible by walk only. As for the bigger one, a Jeep trail runs up the mountain.
Grass skiing is not a new sport-- the first grass skis were developed in 1960 by a German named Joseph Kaiser. A few different versions appeared since then, but the most popular one, and the fastest one, is the one used nowadays in China. As a skiing sport, grass skiing did not escape from the legislation of the International Ski federation (FIS). The few competitions are in the framework of the federation.
Meaner than the meanest double black in North America.It might seem really easy to open a grass skiing center, but the Tuanjie center is an architectural feat. Under the grass, you will find a gigantic draining system. The trail is watered more than a golf course, but it is important to drain the water so the grass doesn't die. It is also very important to make sure that there are absolutely no rocks on the grass, and since the track is located in the mountain, when there is rain, you can avoid the rocks and debris to go all over the trail. Imagine going down on those really fast and hitting a branch or a rock. Even though you fall on grass, you can still eat shit.
As the pictures show it, the protection used is similar to the protection used for rollerblades. You will wear knee and elbow pads, as well as a helmet. And let me tell you that you will appreciate that stuff on your first ride down. My dad, an experienced alpine skier, tried it. "On snow, you stop like on a quarter, and on grass, you have to use one of your skis to brake, or just turn to slow down, and turn until you actually go back up to completely stop."
The people working at the track claim that their track, two kilometers long, is the longest in the world. They mentioned that it is recognized by The Guinness Book of Records as the longest grass skiing slope, but I couldn't confirm this information, so let's take their word!
The funny part is, this dude dropped a week's worth of meals in order to stick this mad blaster.
They didn't want to say how much a pair of skis was worth. But this shouldn't be too expensive since the one they use is made by Ongtex, a company from Taiwan, kingdom of cheap labor.
Let's imagine these skis getting really popular in North America, and all young skiers getting a pair. With more skills than the Chinese skiers, some jumps would be possible, and the freestyle grass skiing could be a great alternative to regular skiing for people who live in an area where there is no snow in summer.
One word... STEEZE.