The ride from Yabuli Station to Sun Mountain Resort was half an hour, which was half an hour longer than I was willing to wait to hit the slopes. Once we got there, the touts started trying to convince us they could get a better deal on the ticket price than what if we went straight to the ticket window. I thought they were full of shit, until I realized that this particular resort exists in a universe where Friday is part of the weekend, and thus weekend ticket prices were in effect. This rendered my prior information on their pricing null and void, so we decided to go with the touts to save $15 off the price of the $60 4-hour ticket. For those curious, that $45 ticket did include equipment rental, but where they made you pay extra was for things like snow pants, gloves, goggles or any of that junk. Still, me thinks it worked out to be an alright deal compared to Western resorts, where the lift ticket alone usually starts around $60.
Would the quality of the trails be comparable though? Would the lift lines be masses of people clamoring over each other to get on the lift with little regard to the concept of the queue? Would snowboarding amongst Chinese skiers be akin to a duck flying through shotgun fire? Would the après ski consist of instant noodles and rice wine? I would soon find the answers to these mysteries and many more.
An interesting thing about Sun Mountain, they only have one lift in operation. The good news is that it’s a high speed gondola, and it takes you right to the peak where you have access to virtually all the trails. Lift lines were non-existent meaning…we were the only people on the mountain! Ok, so we had the mountain to ourselves, if that wasn’t awesome enough, the snow was pristine groomed powder. Those mighty snow cannons you see in the pictures were definitely put to use, because the base was nice and thick, like a juicy burger that you could ride on.
When my friends and I ventured off-piste to get high on powder like a wallstreet banker, we were able to do so without the hindrance of some righteous ski patrol; in fact, they seemed amused more than anything else. There were a few features, jumps and rails, but the looney toon that set them up decided to put them in glades, so they were not for my rickety old bones.
The weather was sunny, but it was a frigid minus 25 centigrade, so bundling up was necessary. When I dove down the blacks and really picked up speed carving, the wind chill sucked all the heat right out of me. I’ll have to say that having the gondola as the main lift was a stroke of genius. You don’t have to deal with freezing to death on the way up, and it’s a comfortable ride. Also because of the ease of getting on and off of it, you never have the slowdowns you get with normal lifts, and I’m willing to bet there’d be plenty of those with all the noobs that have no experience on chair lifts.
The fours hours were almost up and I decided to call it a day, because my muscles hadn’t been exposed to that kind of exercise for ages, and I didn’t want my last run down the mountain to be on a stretcher. My friends however wanted to keep on keeping on, so I told them I would try and hold off the tout that had sold us the package, as he had now started phoning my friend incessantly trying to locate them.
Once they came back, we had a little problem to bargain our way out of. The deal with the four hour tickets was, it started as soon as we rented out the gear, and not when we first got on the gondola as we had assumed. We rightly thought this was a load of poopshit because it takes a good 30+ minutes to get all the equipment, put it on, and head to the lift. The tout did not agree, and said the computer that monitored our activity did not either. It’s all sorted by RFID chipped cards you see, so when you rent your equipment they tap your card, and when you board the lifts they do the same. The price to pay was a full day’s price instead of the four hours, which added $30 per person. My friends had only gone about 45 minutes over the time from when we got the gear, so really only 15 minutes or less over the 4 hours the ticket included. I hope you can see the absurdity here. Since we had bought the tickets from the tout and not from the ticket booth didn’t do much for our cause either. After about an hour of back and forth we managed to knock it down to half of what they wanted, but it was frustrating to deal with. Hey Melco Resorts China (the Canadian company that owns the resort) why don’t you sort your computer systems out so that your customers get the 4 hours of skiing they pay for, and be more flexible about the over charges.
The next problem presented itself as one of the oldest tricks in the 28-volume encyclopedia on tricks in China. We asked for a ride back to Yabuli Station from one of the employees at the resort. He said sure no problem, he could drive us, and it would be 50 kuai. We jumped on that and said sure because the ride from the station had been 60, so we thought the guy was being nice and giving us a deal. How wrong we were. Turns out there is another train station called “Yabuli Station South”, that is much closer to the resort. In fact we probably could have walked there in about 10 minutes. This is where that son of a fucking slut brought us. It’s also where shit hit the fan with me being riding shotgun. He claimed this was where he thought we wanted to go, and to go to the real station would be 100 kuai, even though the one native Chinese speaker in our group had clearly stated we wanted to go to “Yabuli Station” and said nothing of “Yabuli Station South”. The rotten bag of dicks had agreed without question; knowing full well there were two stations, and that we would have little choice but be ripped off or miss our train. I proceeded to tell him what I thought of him with some choice words in both English and Chinese, and he was none too pleased. I was also ready to have him drive us back to the resort and miss the train on principle. Sadly my friends were not of the same mindset, there was a mutiny of my leadership, and they convinced the driver to continue going to the station, where they paid him his price.
It’s scum like that that can really ruin a great day of riding and this country in general. But I know they are in the minority and I know they’ll get their bloody comeuppance sooner or later, and I sleep well knowing that.
After that little episode, it was all smooth sailing as we bid adieu to the decaying industrial town of Yabuli and made our way north, to the frozen heart of Heilongjiang province, the city of Harbin.
Filed under: tourist shit