As winter sports heat up, snowmaking technician gains traction in nation
As the enthusiasm for winter sports triggered by the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics continues to heat up, snowmaking technician as a newly-emerging profession is now gaining more attention.
"Now, more ski areas are built in southern China. So far, there are four in Hunan province. And for all the outdoor ones, even those in northern China, need to make snow to ensure the quality of skiing runs," said Zhang Xiaobo, 44, a snowmaking technician in Changsha, Hunan province.
Soon after Beijing won the bid in 2015, Zhang got a chance to work as a snowmaking technician at Sanzhixiong Ice and Snow Park－an indoor ski area open all the year round－where he has made thousands of tons of snow in the past six years.
"We have to replace every 15 days or so the snow of the three tracks with a total length of 180 meters and width of 75 meters, and about 80 to 100 tons of snow is needed every time," he said.
Before that, Zhang worked at a refrigeration plant in Changde, Hunan province, where he obtained the relevant refrigeration certificates.
"The principle of snowmaking is not complicated, as there is no need to add chemical materials," Zhang said. "We just need to control the compression ratio of water and air. We will get slices of ice first, which will be broken into powder and sprayed into the ski area. Then our workers pave them smooth and neat."
However, in order to produce higher quality snow, the technicians need to have master control over the amount of water. It's a skill that "comes with experience".
In addition to making ice and snow, Zhang spends more time monitoring the temperature of the ski area.
"The temperature should be controlled to stay between -1 C and -8 C.For summertime also, but the controlling work then will be much harder," he said.
Zhang said the Beijing Games have inspired more people across the nation to experience winter sports.
In East China's Zhejiang province, for instance, there were 16 ski areas as of this January.
"Since Feb 4, the number of our daily visitors surged by more than 30 percent. Now, we have about 2,000 visitors every day. In addition to local residents, we have groups of visitors from neighboring Hubei and Jiangxi provinces," he said.
The latest survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics showed 346 million Chinese had taken part in winter sports by October 2021 since Beijing was selected as the host city for the 2022 Winter Games in 2015. The figure is equivalent to 24.56 percent of the country's total population, hence the rising demand for snowmaking technicians.
"But I barely see any training institutions across the nation yet. There is still big potential in the sector," said Zhang.
Zhu Youfang contributed to this story.
February 18, 2022