China may not be the first country that comes to mind as a skiing destination but after watching Jordan Manley’s film China: A Skier’s Journey, you may find yourself planning your next trip. In preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics, ski resorts have been popping up all across China — many with manmade slopes and snow, but others with natural rolling hills and quiet groves of birch trees under a fresh layer of powdery snow. Shot as a chapter of a larger series about skiing all over the world, this film explains that while skiing as a leisure sport is relatively new to China, skiing was utilized by hunters in the northwestern part of the country for thousands of years. Manley, an award-winning director, depicts the calm, snow-covered Chinese vistas beautifully, interspersed with aerial footage as skilled skiers draw graceful curving lines in the snow.
The first stop in the film is a massive volcano on the border with North Korea, where the wide expanses of untouched snow are overshadowed by the tenuous political ramifications of a potential accident.
It’s unclear what terrain is in and out of bounds… If we need a rescue, it’ll be a Chinese Military helicopter landing on the border of North Korea, beamed back home on the news.
As skiing becomes more fashionable in China, the infrastructure is rapidly developing to support a boom that is expected to coincide with the 2022 Winter Games. The film explores just a couple of the 500+ ski resorts that have popped up all across China to serve the demand of the growing middle class. One of these stops is Chongli — the venue for China’s upcoming Olympics.
Manley and his group travel next to the northwest corner of China to visit the descendants of ancient skiers.
They are herders and hunters. Inheritors of a way of life that began in the stone age.
They visit cave paintings depicting ancestral hunters with skis and follow local craftsman as they carve long wide skis from fallen wood by hand and cover them with horse hide in their traditional way. While the practice of hand making the skis can be taught and passed down, due to strict hunting laws in China the hunting techniques of this region are at risk of being forgotten.
As the Winner of Best Sports Film at Banff Film Festival and Best Cinematography at Adventure Film Festival, China: A Skier’s Journey is a beautiful introduction to the rising sport with ancient ties in China. More of Jordan Manley’s work can be found on his Vimeo channel, his website, or his Instagram page.