SHANGHAI, China , May 7, 2002 (Martin Fackler AP) -- Shanghai is hot, muggy, built on a former swamp and hours away from the nearest hill. And now, it's the world's newest alpine destination.
Sweaty Shanghai is opening its first ski slope -- an artificial one, obviously.
A Shanghai-based company said Tuesday it will spend $36 million to build an indoor ski slope, including enough snowmaking equipment for an artificial blizzard.
When completed, the 130-foot structure will resemble an oversized playground slide enclosed by a roof. The interior will be big enough to hold a chairlift and accommodate 2,000 skiers a day.
A spokeswoman for the builder, Shanghai Dashun Hokkaido Skiing Co., said the slope's biggest selling point is its year-round availability. Ski enthusiasts can step in from a 100-degree Shanghai summer day to practice their slalom.
``Shanghai's natural environment is not suitable for skiing, but the uniqueness of the experience will attract Shanghainese and domestic tourists,'' said the spokeswoman, who gave her name as Mrs. Tao.
Mrs. Tao said the company was a joint venture between Chinese and Japanese investors.
Construction on the slope is to be completed in July. Mrs. Tao said it will be the second-largest indoor ski slope in the world. The largest is just outside Tokyo, another heavily populated Asian city far from natural ski mountains.
It will be China's second indoor slope. A smaller one was built three years ago in Shenzhen, farther south. That one was aimed at tourists from neighboring Hong Kong.
China's first outdoor ski resort opened just six years ago, according to the Beijing Saibei Skiing Club, one of China's largest ski clubs. There are now 13 full-service ski resorts, most located in the country's frigid northeast, the club said.
Mrs. Tao said Shanghai's rising living standards mean local residents can afford the 150 yuan (dlrs 18) entrance fee and an undecided hourly charge. But she admitted it may take some coaxing to lure local residents at first, given their unfamiliarity with snow.
The company also hopes to generate interest elsewhere in China by offering package tours that include hotel and airfare, Mrs. Tao said.
The slope will rent skis, poles, boots, parkas and ski pants. The company also plans to offer ski lessons _ if it can find enough experienced skiers to serve as instructors.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press