Winter Sport Craze Sweeps Internet in China

As the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics (Beijing 2022) are approaching, skiing has become one of the top buzzwords that has swept along almost every social media platform in China. 

Winter sports, skiing, in particular, has become the most discussed topics in Little Red Book (Xiaohongshu), a lifestyle social media and e-commerce app, with a half million related posts. Other platforms  have seen the same trends. In  video-sharing app Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, skiing-related videos have racked up a total of 16 billion views. Netizens are dazed with a wide range of content, varying from tutorials to performance demonstrations. 

“Suddenly, my social media is bombarded by the same skiing-related content,” said Meng Ge, a social media junkie. “From online celebrities to the general public, it appears that almost everyone is spending their spare time  at a ski resort.” 

The national craze for skiing can be ascribed to China’s grand vision of constructing a vast winter sports infrastructure to engage engage 300 million people in winter sports. The plan calls for 650 skating rinks and 800 ski resorts to be ready by 2022. As publicity picks up, the Chinese public’s enthusiasm for winter sports, especially among the youth, has greatly increased.

According to research conducted by a data analysis firm Daxue Consulting, China’s winter sports industry, which is barely two years old, is one of the fastest growing in the world, with a market size expected to reach over 800 billion yuan by Beijing 2022 and realize China’s target to 1 trillion yuan by 2025. 

The skiing market alone is expected to be worth 24 billion yuan, almost a  fivefold increase from 2015 when China won its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. The ironclad figure has proved that skiing, which used to be a niche professional sport, has now transformed into a popular lifestyle with hundreds of millions of people entering into this new industry in China. According to the ski industry white book, more than 13 million Chinese people participated in skiing last year, of which 72 percent were first timers. 

A few months ago, the Tsinghua University Center for the Development of the Sports Industry (TUDSI) and released a report titled “Chinese Youth Participation in Winter Sports 2021”. According to the report, short videos and social media platforms, such as WeChat and TikTok, are the main ways young people learn about winter sports, each accounting for 69.6 percent and 69.5 percent. The search for skiing has increased 150 percent this winter in Little Red Book. 

The popularity of winter sports has presented enormous business opportunities for online celebrities who are always looking for the next hot topic. Opportunistic online influencers, even those who have never tried skiing before, are taking advantage of this sport as clickbait, hoping to gain more traffic for their account. Overnight, social media is flooded with cookie-cutter skiing-related content, with online influencers sharing their experience and guides for different ski resorts. For those who don’t know how to ski, recommendations for ski outfits and tutorials on how to make a stunning photo on a ski resort have drawn many eyes to their sites.

Till now, skiing has not just been an internet buzzword but a thriving business with millions of brands and companies tapping into China’s hottest new trend. On the cusp of this winter’s skiing season, social media platforms launched a series of related online activities, scrambling to attract more users. For instance, Little Red Book launched its “Xiaohongshu Ice and Snow Season” online events, inviting bloggers to post pictures and videos about skiing and giving them support with traffic.

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Luxury brands have launched ski capsules or incorporated skiwear elements into their collections to attract more buyers. In November 2020, Dior launched its men’s ski capsule in China in collaboration with the sports brands Descente, AK Skis, and POC to create clothing, skis/snowboards, and helmets. 

The national winter sports craze in China has also, to some extent, contributed to the success stories of some companies. According to the tech news report, in October 2021, Beijing-headquartered Aoxue Culture, a ski gear maker, has raised “tens of million RMB” from BR Capital. The company secured 20 million yuan ($3.1 million) in a pre-series A funding round from Shenzhen Capital Group in January last year. On August 8, a ski mobile application app Huabei completed a 40 million yuan A round of financing, which Hillhouse Ventures exclusively invested. 

“The successful Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will further promote China’s winter sports culture and will provide untapped opportunities such as training and tourism for companies who want to delve into the booming industry,” said a source familiar with the winter sport industry who refused to give his name.