It’s not too long ago we picked up on the first episode of season 4 of “A Skiers Journey.” In that episode we went to Iran, this time Chad Sayers, Forrest Coots and Director and Narrator Jordan Manley take us to China. Where skiing seems to be a part of its ancient past, (with rock paintings depict hunters with ski’s,) and its near future (Beijing is the unlikely host of the Winter Olympics of 2022). But its present?
In the 18 minutes that the journey has been distilled to, the guys take us to the Changbai volcano, (reported birthplace of North Korea’s Kim Jong-il) where they contemplate skiing into the crater. It wasn’t completely clear to me if they make the descent; I think they shy away from the risks of their not being any rescue if anything goes wrong; but they find some amazing deep powder and take us through hip deep tree runs.
The contrast with the barren hills of many new ski resorts throughout China, that rely heavily on artificial snow, could not be more shocking. Where I also imagine that the ecological impact of these ski resorts is not contributing, to say the least, to the continued existence of authentic, natural ski resorts. With China having a horrible track-record when it comes to eco awareness, systematically butchering the natural beauty in the country; this just adds to that. The vision of high rise buildings alongside the piste is just dystopian if not apocalyptic to me.
Luckily they travel away from these horrible places to the Altay Mountains, where some say the first people ever strapped wooden planks under their feet, curved the tips, and went hunting. Whereas Norway is often named as the birthplace of modern skiing, here we look into the ancient past of skiing, the local hunters skinning up the mountain with horse hair, and dropping in to catch their prey. It is unfortunate that there are no images of these hunting trips, and the guys don’t do any skiing there in this episode.
And so we return to the endless urbanization that is swallowing China whole. Sometimes journey’s also take us to places we don’t want to see. In my darker moments, no amount of powder runs can weigh up to the fear for these grey and brown and dusty cities that represent a bleak and horrible future, that for some people is the present. And that makes me sad and a bit scared. Aldous Huxley would shit his pants.