A freshman from Zhangjiakou University learn to ski at Wanlong Ski Resort in Chongli district, Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, last month. (Provided to China Daily)
University's compulsory course to boost winter sports
Zhangjiakou University in Hebei province has introduced a compulsory skiing program for freshmen, the first of its kind in China.
The college is about 50 kilometers from Chongli district, where most of the snow events for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games will be held.
More than 2,000 freshmen have been receiving training on the slopes at Chongli's Wanlong Ski Resort since November.
"We set up the compulsory course last year as a substitute for physical education lessons to cultivate more talent for the Olympics and create more employment opportunities for our students," said Zhang Shuwei, a spokeswoman for Zhangjiakou University.
Some 3,050 freshmen from 10 departments will take part in the course during this snow season, which is expected to last until April. Each will learn theoretical knowledge and practice skiing for a week, after which they will take a test to gain two college credits, Zhang said.
The ski instructors are also students from the university. The college sent 85 students from its sports school to gain the necessary qualifications.
"Many of them still want to learn more about skiing after the class ends," said Zeng Wei, the head instructor.
Zhang added that many of the students in higher grades "envy the freshmen and have expressed an eagerness to attend the course, so we'll probably expand the class to more students".
She said the university covers the full cost of the course. "All they need to pay for is lunch and 20 yuan ($3) toward safety insurance," Zhang said.
Li Qun is among the freshmen taking the course. "I'd never even seen snow before because my hometown is in Southeast China's Fujian province," said the 19-year-old, who is excited and proud to be learning to ski.
Armed with knowledge in skiing and medical care, Li said she plans to become a service volunteer when the Olympics start.
To encourage more people to try winter sports, the university devised an entire package last year, including the ski course, to nurture 10,000 enthusiasts before 2022, among which 5,000 will be further trained to be professionals in the ice-snow industry.
Since winning the bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics with co-host Beijing in 2015, Zhangjiakou has introduced a series of measures to promote winter sports.
The city education bureau is planning to set up related majors at junior colleges and technical secondary schools, including operational management of ice stadiums and cable maintenance.
Last month, the city announced it would cultivate 1,000 graduates with bachelor's degrees in management and services for winter sports by 2022.
In addition, youngsters under 16 in Zhangjiakou can ski for free at seven major resorts in Chongli during the 2017-18 season, as part of efforts to inspire more people to take part in winter sports.
"China aims to have 300 million people participating in winter sports by 2022," said Zhang Dianzhong, an official with Zhangjiakou's education bureau.