Guest contribution from Nadia Reusser
Everyone here has experienced that: The Glacier Express train arrives at the train station and an avalanche of Chinese skiers step out into the winter wonderland – into Zermatt. Bewildered, bedazzled and – armed with cameras, mobile phones and other electronic life-support – they storm out in search of the one and only, the magical Matterhorn, towering just around the corner.
Yes, we all know they come to see the Matterhorn;
Yes, we all know they cannot resist a precisely coordinated selfie;
But did you know that an increasing number of them are super keen to go skiing?!
A new Chinese skiing generation
In the summer of 2015 an event occurred that has triggered a change within the skiing landscape forever: Beijing was awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics. Ever since that crucial moment, the country’s attitude towards winter sports has created a craze never seen before. The government has started to actively promote and invest into winter sports. Both the number of ski resorts and number of skiers has been growing exponentially and China’s Xi Jinping even announced that by 2022 the goal is to have 300 million Chinese skiers. This would mean a doubling of the current global skiing market!
Stoked Snowsports School is catering to Chinese skiers
Stoked Snowsports School has been catering to this new wave of sports enthusiasts by offering China specific ski experiences: ski lessons in Mandarin, WeChat (Facebook/Instagram), ski video production including the world famous selfie in full ski gear with the photogenic Matterhorn in the background, a dedicated China marketing team and specialised China skiing packages.
All this to inspire the love of skiing, nature and accommodate Zermatt’s Chinese skiers in the best way possible.
This year, Stoked’s China specialists are Marc Frencken and Laura Davis. They ensure that Chinese ski guests’ experiences are as authentic as the ski resort itself. With a Chinese twist; when taking pictures with Chinese guests, to make them smile, they don’t say “Cheese” but “Qiézi” 茄子 – which literally means eggplant – instead. They motivate guests not by saying “Yes, come on, you can do it” but use the Chinese “Jiāyóu” 加油 which literally means “Add Oil“.
The word “skiing” in Chinese is “Huáxuě” 滑雪 which literally means slide snow….but they manage to get them to slide and make turns too. And when the kids keep saying “Xiǎobiàn” 小便 – which means “a little convenience” – well you probably know where they need to go…
Stoked’s Chinese speaking ski instructors
Marc decided to go to China after finishing his Masters in Industrial Engineering and Management Science: “I wanted to learn a language completely different from all the Latin based languages. My eye fell on China and I signed up for a year long language course at the University of Haerbin, conveniently close to Yabuli, China’s biggest ski resort at the time. It was a tough start as I didn’t speak a single word when arriving in China, but slowly I got the hang of the language and life became good.”
After getting a Chinese government scholarship Marc moved to Kunming where he continued studying Chinese for another two years.
“I returned to Europe after three years and did a ski season in Engelberg, two in Wengen and three in Val Thorens. I was a bit frustrated that I couldn’t use my Chinese so I started researching ski resorts with a Chinese clientele. My eye fell on Zermatt – which due to the Matterhorn already had a big influx of Chinese tourists. I knew they would start skiing more and more and hence I moved here and started working for Stoked.”
To prepare for this season Marc went to Taiwan for two months to practise his Chinese and cycle a loop around the island. Now back in Zermatt he is taking selfies with skiing Chinese more than ever.
The long way to Zermatt
Our Rookie Laura is South African, born in China enthusiast. She studied Chinese (Modern) at the University of Leeds, UK and spent a year abroad at the Shanghai Jiaotong University as part of her degree.
“I was born in Johannesburg. I have lived in Moscow where I learnt to ski, in Cape Town where I had my first encounter with a Chinese sport called “Dragonboating” and in Dortmund where I started learning Chinese, before I moved to the UK. My fascination about China made me further study this beautiful country. I continued with Dragonboating and trained the students in Shanghai for a competition and competed in Boracay, Philippines at an international regatta. I also got involved in Beijing opera and won a scholarship for the Shanghai Theatre Academy to play an old fisherman.”
As time went by and Laura pursued her career at a Trust company in Luxembourg, she spent every available moment improving her ski technique. One day, she decided to take the chance and started to combine her enthusiasm for sport, her talent for languages and love for teaching – into one.
“I decided to apply to Stoked Snowsports School in stunning Zermatt, because it’s a privately owned ski school where decision making is fast. The reputation of the school is outstanding and the school is very open minded to new trends in the market which includes the adaptation to the influx of Chinese skiers…
… I want to influence that trend and be at the forefront of the movement.”
Don’t be surprised to hear Chinese on the slopes
Over the next couple of years China will transform into a real winter sports powerhouse. And Zermatt is in a great position to welcome these new enthusiastic Chinese skiers.
So the next time you hear JiaYou (加油), HuaXue (滑雪) or Qiezi (茄子) on the slopes you know it’s the Stoked Snowsports School preparing the next generation of Chinese skiers for Zermatt’s black slopes….and maybe even the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics!