YINCHUAN, Feb. 11 (Xinhua) -- At Yuehai Ski Resort, five kilometers away from Yinchuan, capital city of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, 40-year-old Zhang Lei and his son have donned their ski outfits for a day of descending down the slopes.
"My son loves outdoor activities, but I'm always too busy to take him out. Today, I hope he can enjoy himself and also learn to be brave from skiing," Zhang said.
As China's economy has grown in recent years, people have more leisure time to spend with their children, which has resulted in a rise in popularity of outdoor activities, such as cycling, swimming, hiking and skiing. With the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing now less than three years away, winter sports like skiing have become especially popular with young families.
"It's estimated that our ski resort may have over 200,000 visitors this winter, and about 30 percent of them are parents and their children," said Wu Yueling, marketing director at Yuehai Ski Resort, adding that the venue had recently installed several facilities aimed at families with young children.
"The rising popularity of winter sports not only fills the hole of outdoor activities in the local area, but also empowers the development of related industries," said Zhang Mei, deputy director of the regional sports bureau.
Ahead of the 2022 Winter Games, several government-backed initiatives have been put in place to boost the development of China's winter sports industry. The country now has over 800 ski resorts, and over 150 million people have participated in winter sports. Within Ningxia, there are 14 ski resorts and five ice rinks, most of which have been constructed in the past five years.
"I was afraid of falling at the beginning, but now I quite enjoy the feeling of skiing down the slope," said Zhang Zhihao, Zhang Lei's son.
Winter sports have also enriched the lives of people in China's northwestern regions. In decades gone by, many would rather have spent the long winter indoors, but as attitudes have shifted, it is now a common sight to see families enjoying ice skating on the frozen lakes.
34-year-old Wu Yue and his 6-year-old daughter Wu Xin have been enthusiastically skating on Yinchuan's frozen Beita Lake for two hours.
"I live nearby, and I take my little girl here skating every winter weekend. It seems that she has been addicted to it," said Wu Yue, smiling.
According to Wu Yue, skating is one of the most popular winter activities for children, who enjoy skating hand-in-hand, laughing and playing, making this frozen lake a children's playground.
Wu Xin has made a lot of friends through skating and winter sports, and Wu Yue too has met many parents his own age.
"We often chat about the growth of our children, and many of us agree that they have become more outgoing and less fragile. When they fall, they get up by themselves and continue playing and laughing again," said Wu Yue.