With people's enthusiasm about ice and snow sports continuing to grow along with the approaching 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, China is taking the initiative to meet the increasing demand for professional workers in the industry.
Among the efforts, more higher vocational education institutions will offer training in ice and snow sports facility maintenance and management, according to an updated list of higher vocational education programs endorsed by China's Ministry of Education.
Located some 200 km northwest of Beijing and newly founded in 2018, the Institute of Ice and Snow, Zhangjiakou University, has introduced a series of courses concerning sports knowledge, language and multi-cultural communication as well as first aid.
Dong Jianming, dean of the institute, said the institute aims to cater to the ever-increasing need of professional staff in the 2022 Games and beyond in China.
"The upcoming winter Olympics in Beijing has brought us an unprecedented opportunity for fostering more talent in China's growing ice and snow industry," he said.
Zhangjiakou, a city in north China's Hebei Province, will co-host the 2022 Games and stage many competitions including snowboarding, freestyle skiing, cross-country skiing and ski jumping.
Places like ski resorts and rinks, which used to be lesser-known ice and snow infrastructure for Chinese, are now in vogue with more and more Chinese youth trying their hand at the sports.
"What appeals to me the most about skiing is speed, freedom and the sense of accomplishment that comes from conquering difficult slopes," said Cao Yu, a ski lover working in the Internet industry in Beijing, who has been to several skiing sites in China such as Chongli's Genting ski resort in Hebei and Nanshan ski resort in Beijing.
Compared with the United States where Cao enjoyed winter sports a lot, "China might still lag behind in terms of facilities, like snow quality (mostly rely on manufactured ice), the length of slopes and the area of ski resorts, but it is improving every year," he said.
Though the country's ice and snow sports industry is still in the initial stages, the popularity of these sports has been on the rise in China.
In Beijing, many parents drive for hours to take their kids to ski resorts in remote suburbs or neighboring Hebei Province on a regular basis.
From 2018 to 2019, the number of domestic skiers has reached 23.45 million, an increase of 21.5 percent from the previous year, according to the International Data Group, a market researcher.
China is expected to see more than 300 million people involved in winter sports by 2022, according to a development plan launched by authorities.
According to Dong, the training of professionals in the ice and snow sports industry is affected by various factors such as sports sites, seasons and people's preference, which in all makes large-scale cultivation of talent through the solo efforts of education institutions something unthinkable.
That is why Zhangjiakou University has planned to continue setting more school-enterprise cooperation projects to provide various educational platforms, Dong said.
Dong said talent cultivation in this industry is a long-term process, and the school will continue to work on improving the quality of students by seizing this opportunity.