A running event brings attention to a park in Gansu province.
Acrystal-clear castle carved from ice. Red-crowned cranes that swim through the skies. White waterfalls frozen in time. Literally. A red-clad Santa in a Christmas village is, indeed, a jolly old soul. (The question is: how packed is his sack with black coal?)
These are the colors that imbuethe hues ofHeilongjiang province’s wintertime palette.
It’s an appeal forged by freezing temperatures that takes the shape of ice formations, one as unique as the countless snowflakes that cover its terrain.
The white stuff arrived in Mohe county early last month and typically stays 120 days.
Winter tourism surged last year, when China’s northernmost province introduced five routes, featuring skiing, hot springs, seasonal landscapes and polar experiences in such destinations as Yabuli, Mohe, Daqing andQiqihar.
Tourists paid 9 million visits to the province during the last Spring Festival, up 31 percent compared with the same period of the previous year, the provincial tourism authority reports. Tourism income grew 14 percent to 10.7 billion yuan ($1.6 billion).
Major sites have experienced growing influxes.
Sun Island’s snow-sculpture exhibition received half a million visits, up 8.3 percent yearon-year. Yabuli’s ski resorts got 450,000, up 26.5 percent. And 560,000 visits were recorded in Xuexiang village, up 7.24 percent.
So, Heilongjiang is introducing new itineraries to draw even more sojourners this year.
“We’re paying more attention to the integration of ice, snow and culture,” says Heilongjiang’s tourism authority director, Xi Dongguang.
Local authorities have organized over 100 major events, featuring sports, culture and photography.
Major parks will host activities. Travelers can zip along frozen water via ice chutes, dogsleds and snowmobiles.
Jingpo Lake offers ice fishing. Visitors can hunt in Heihe. Yichun’s forests will host a cross-country race.
Yichun will also stage a photography competition to capture rime-glazed landscapes, snow-draped forests and frigid villages in the Great KhinganMountains.
An international oil-painting trade center recently opened inHeilongjiang’s capital, Harbin. It claims to be the largest of its kind in northeastern Asia and hosts pieces from Russia, Poland and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Visitors can buy works, watch artists create and learn more about the genre in general.
Hengdaohezi town’s visitors can experience Russian customs and architecture, and eastern China’s railways’ historical development.
Northern European Christmas culture finds a home in the Far East inMohe’s Beiji village — China’s northernmost settlement.
Mudanjiang’s Jingpo Lake integrates animistic traditions with a biting-cold climate this December, when its Shaman Village opens as a new attraction.
The destination aspires to infuse traditional Manchu customs with wintertime entertainment.
Travelers can stay in wooden cabins and visit sacrificial altars, practice archery and ride in horse-drawn open sleighs. (It’s yet to be seen if there will be actual jingle bells.)
They can dine on Manchu cuisine, including hotpot and fish-soup rice.
Harbin’s Ice and Snow World will this year add electric carts and sled chairs. Visitors can roll over ice in inflatable tubes this winter.
The seasonal attraction will construct a new “little sibling” that can operate year-round.
And it’ll build ice chutes that blast down mountainsides this year.
The city’s Volga Manor will offer classes in such Russian customs as crafting nesting dolls and baking. It will also open a Russian art museum and a ski resort.
A large-scale “winter world” in Hulan River’s wetlands will open to the public.
Visitors can ski over 200,000 square meters, explore a 25-meter-high artificial iceberg andzoomdownan 800-meter ice chute. It’ll also host virtual-reality experiences and automobile shows.
Visitors can explore Daqing on hovercraft that glide across the snow. And they can play ice golf or dip into steamy hot springs.
Qiqihar will get athletic with hockey, and speed and figure skating competitions. The city will also stage cultural performances on snowy fields.
Wudalianchi will open a 30,000-square-meter hot spring area. Visitors can play golf in the snow, and hike woodlands and volcanoes.
They can also do ice fishing and ride snowmobiles.
Indeed, Heilongjiang has upped its ante as a jackpot for wintertime travelers looking for thrills and chills. It increasingly seems a great place to cash in on the cold.
From left to right: A visitor holds a fish caught at Jingpo Lake in Mudanjiang; hunting in the forest of Heihe; ice structures in Harbin’s Ice and Snow World.
Top: A winter landscape in Xunke county in Heihe. Above: Red-crowned cranes at Zhalong National Nature Reserve in Qiqihar.