Q&A: Snowboarding in China with Mellow Parks
Just inside the Great Wall of China, not far from Beijing, a team of professional snowboarders, dubbed “Mellow Parks”, are pioneering the sport of snowboarding in the Middle Kingdom. CherryPow caught up with one of core members, Olli Fenwick-Ross, to find out more.
When one first pictures a view of China, snow sports probably doesn’t rate highly on the list of many people. Countries such as Japan – known for it’s powder, Kashmir – for the highest lift in the world, and even South Korea probably rank as more favourable ski destinations in Asia.
But the country better known for pandas, dumplings, and ancient traditions is surrounded by some seriously enormous mountains just covered in white stuff. Tibet, Sichuan, and Xinjiang regions all have peaks comparable to anywhere in the world. Some are even incomparable – Mt Everest and the Himalaya mountain range border Tibet, China.
While development of world-class, destination ski resorts are slowly being planned in some of those regions the current snowboarding scene lies closely aligned to Beijing and the north, north-east of China. The mountains aren’t as big, but interest is growing fast from those who can afford it.
One group responsible for promoting snowboarding in China is Mellow Parks. They’ve been around for 8 years and have put China on the professional snowboarding map by organising the International Nanshan Open. This year they’re releasing the first HD snowboarding flick to be produced in China. Even better, they’ll be offering it as a free download.
I spoke to one of MellowParks founders, Olli Fenwick-Ross, recently to talk about what the Mellow Parks team are up to this season, the current vibe of snowboarding in China right now, and what the future could hold. Here’s what he had to say:
CherryPow: First up, thanks for talking to CherryPow. So tell us how the Mellow Parks team came together and what you’re about.
Olli Fenwick-Ross: Always a pleasure! Mellow Parks came together initially with a tight-knit crew of snowboarders who took it into their own hands to rectify the lack of snowboard events or parks in China. It started 8 years ago with the first Nanshan Open, and has since grown into a company that builds and manages world-class terrain parks throughout the country and runs all of China’s most popular snowboard events. I guess you could say it’s a dream job for most of us!
How do you explain to an outsider the current snowboarding/snow culture scene inside China right now?
It’s definitely an up and coming sport. Every year we see more and more new faces on the slopes, and the skill level is really increasing. It’s a close and friendly scene where the emphasis is on fun rather than taking the sport too seriously. Check the bonus section of Happy Niu Year to see for yourself!
So tell us about your new movie, Happy Niu Year, that you’re about to launch this winter. Where did you shoot, who’s in it, and why should people go see it?
Happy Niu Year has been a project we’ve wanted to do for a while now – basically an all-Chinese snowboard film showcasing the local talent here. Last year we released ‘Niu Beesness’, our first film – this however was just a side project and we did not really know what we were doing. This year we decided to put a lot of effort into ‘Happy Niu Year’ in order to bring Chinese snowboarding to a wider audience in a more professional production. It was shot primarily in the Quiksilver Nanshan Mellow Park, with a few shots from Yabuli in Haerbin and some from the indoor Burton Qiaobo Mellow Park. All the riders are local shredders and are deeply involved in the scene – some being Mellow Parks parkshapers, others running their own snowboard shops. Everyone should go see it! It’s a super fun movie, not too serious, and gives you vision into what the snowboard scene is really about here. There’s over 100 minutes of bonus footage too, including our trip to New Zealand, the full Nitro Roadwarriors 2009 movie, the ‘Best of: 7th Red Bull Nanshan Open’, Pirate Movie Production’s visit to the Nanshan Open, and if search really hard you’ll even find some exclusive footage of our boyband ‘Mellow-Dee’
What are some of your favourite areas to ski in China right now?
Well, for sure the Quiksilver Nanshan Mellow Park over winter, and the Burton Qiaobo Mellow Park over summer – and not just because we run them! Both parks are shaped daily which means they’re always nice to ride and you know what to expect. The Burton Qiaobo Mellow Park is great for training over summer – the indoor snow is a bit softer and the features are great to learn on, while the Quiksilver Nanshan Mellow Park has a great variety of features that allows you to push yourself gradually. It also hosts all the big winter snowboard events, and there’s always something interesting going on – you should try to catch the ‘Naked Pig Festival’ there – I’ll leave that one to the imagination. There are a few good ski resorts outside of Beijing, but a lot of these require a full weekend to get to and really enjoy – or are way too cold!
We’ve personally seen some amazing terrain on various mountain ranges inside China the past year. Do you think there is much potential to open up new areas? Is there much of a backcountry scene in some of the more remote areas?
While there’s good terrain, it’s a tricky situation. It’s still quite inaccessible, and once there the below-freezing temperatures don’t help. Sun Mountain Yabuli has been under heavy development over the last few years and will hopefully help change this situation. Sometimes a few hardcore shredders will head into remote areas in the search for powder, but you have to be a bit more dedicated than I am for this!
So what is the agenda for Mellow Parks this season?
We have a pretty full-on winter schedule! The 8th Red Bull Nanshan Open hits Beijing January 9th &10th and will see some big names in the international pro snowboard circuit hit town. We also have four ‘Fat Saturdays’ following that, basically some fun, laid back days on the slopes with good tunes, free demo gear, BBQ, pro-coaching and photographers ‘getting the shot’! February 27th sees the NIKE 6.0 Nightrail Session, a huge party and rail session on the slopes. Sign up to our e-newsletter on www.mellowparks.cn to stay up to date on everything snowboard related in China.
We saw that you guys visited New Zealand this winter. How was that and are you planning another trip this year?
For the last few years we’d really been wanting to take some Chinese shredders with us to chase winter to New Zealand, and this year thanks to support from Air New Zealand it worked out! It’s surprisingly accessible from here, and as winter is the tourist ‘off-season’, most hotels and rentals offer their ‘off-peak’ rates. We were unlucky with the weather that trip and were always in the wrong place at the wrong time, but hopefully we’ll pray to the right gods next year and get awesome weather!
Good luck with the movie launch in China. How can people in other countries get their hands on the new DVD?
Come and visit us and we’ll give them one! While the DVD with all the special features is China only, the Happy Niu Year movie and some of the others will be available free to download from www.mellowparks.cn
Posted by Brendon on November 13th, 2009 in China and Nanshan and Qiaobo and Snowboard
Hi, I'm Brendon, editor and one of the co-founders of CherryPow. When work isn't calling I'm planning the next snow adventure and writing about it.