Trailblazing: China Entrusts OZ with Visioning and Master Planning an Olympic-Ready Ski Resort from the Ground, Up

Part 1 of a two-part post on the birth of a world-class ski destination in China

From the Three Gorges Dam to the recently opened Hong KongZhuhaiMacao Bridge and even as far back as the Great Wall itself, China is known for thinking big with its building and infrastructure projects.

For its sheer size, scope and ambition, the China Swiss Linkage Ski Resort Jilin certainly fits that profile. Located in the Beidahu region of Northeast China, about 60 kilometers from Jilin City and 200 kilometers from the North Korean border, China Swiss Ski Resort would be Asia’s largest ski resort, with 1,860 hectares (close to 4,600 acres) of ski terrain, enough to accommodate 50,000 skiers at full capacity, all directly accessible via seven base villages.

Denver’s OZ Architecture is part of a U.S.-based team selected to create a master plan, vision, story, and detailed design guidelines for the China Swiss Ski Resort. The project presents a rare and compelling opportunity to design a world-class ski resort virtually from the ground, up.

“Not often does a firm get the chance to conceptualize an entire mountain resort project of this scope,” said OZ Principal Rebecca Stone. “Planning a resort basically from scratch, with a design that balances the visitor’s mountain experience with the sanctity of the natural environment, is the kind of challenge OZ embraces. Thankfully we have a group of partners whose expertise complements OZ’s and will be invaluable throughout the process.”

China Swiss Ski Resort is envisioned not only as a global ski destination on par with the Whistlers and Vails of the world, but also as a potential host site for the Winter Olympics. China already is hosting the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, and after meeting with government officials and project participants in China this spring, OZ’s Stone said there are indications the country could make another formal Olympic bid, this one built around the Beidahu region, perhaps for the 2030 Winter Games. With that in mind, the goal is to complete Phase One of the project (including 50-100 km2 of alpine skiing, 10+ lifts, up to 40 km of Nordic skiing and approximately 1.5 million square meters of development in two core villages) in time for the 2022 Beijing Games, to give Olympic officials a glimpse of the new resort.

All told, the project is expected to bring as many as 50,000 jobs to the region and attract 200,000+ guests to the area annually, many of whom will come for the skiing and outdoor opportunities. The resort will cater to the full spectrum of skill levels and interests, from the serious athlete, adventurer and outdoorsperson to the family seeking a mountain backdrop for their leisure pursuits.

The China Swiss Ski Resort project is a multinational effort. The U.S. contingent is led by the SE Group, a global visionary in ski area/mountain resort design, and also includes: Dunn + Kiley, a master planning and landscape architecture firm that has worked in China since 2009, specializing in resort & hospitality projects in challenging topography and climates; John Morton Trails, which is designing the Nordic trail system; and OZ Architecture, which brings extensive prior resort master planning experience in China and in the US to the partnership. The team is working with a number of local Chinese entities, including the Planning Institute in Jilin City, local planners and a variety of consultants who are working through environmental analysis, water, wildlife, utilities, flood protection and other issues.

Their goal: to create a world-class resort to meet China’s growing appetite for snow sports and in the process, perhaps, to bring the Olympics to the Beidahu region.