China's latest import is snow. From Dubai.
Well, not quite. Dubai-based retail giant Majid Al Futtaim -- the company behind Ski Dubai, the Middle East's first indoor ski slope -- has announced it is helping develop what it claims will be the world's largest indoor snow and ski resort for Shanghai.
The company says the snow park, called Wintastar Shanghai, will be 90,000 square meters (nearly 1 million square feet) -- or more than three times the size of Ski Dubai, the largest indoor ski resort in the world when it opened in 2005.
The city of Harbin in China's far northeast currently holds that title with the Harbin Wanda Indoor Ski and Winter Sports Resort. That resort opened in 2017 and is 80,000 square meters (869,000 square feet) in size.
In a news release, Majid Al Futtaim say the Shanghai complex will feature three ski slopes, each with a different gradient, with one described as "Olympic standard for training." What that entails is to be confirmed.
For those with an aversion to throwing themselves down a cold decline, there are 25 non-ski related activities also planned for the site.
The resort, in the Pudong New Area of the city, will be Majid Al Futtaim's first move into leisure and entertainment outside of the Middle East and North Africa, and comes off the back of Ski Dubai being voted "World's Best Indoor Ski Resort" in 2017 at the World Ski Awards.
"We're confident this represents the beginning of an extensive international footprint when it comes to indoor snow entertainment facilities," said Ahmed Galal Ismail, chief executive officer of the ventures division of Majid Al Futtaim, in the release.
Singapore-based KOP Limited will lead the development, announcing the project had broken ground on August 30.
The vast resort comes at an interesting time for snowsports in China. The Winter Olympics will visit Beijing in 2022, marking the first time the world's most populous nation will host the event.
But by and large, winter sports are not high on the agenda for most. Only 12.1 million Chinese people said that had tried skiing at least once, according to a 2017 white paper -- less than 1% of the 1.38 billion population.
The government has taken measures including school grants, plans for at least 600 ice rinks, and encouraged private sector expansion, all with the aim of having 300 million citizens involved in winter sports by 2025.
Along with Genting Secret Garden Resort, a growing outdoor resort close to Beijing in neighboring Hebei province, the Wintastar Shanghai complex marks increased activity from private developers. Indeed, executive chairman and executive director of KOP Limited On Chih Ching has called winter sports "the next big thing in China."
Wintastar Shanghai will join a growing roster of indoor ski resorts Majid Al Futtaim has contributed to. As well as Ski Dubai, the company launched Ski Egypt in 2017 -- the first indoor ski resort in Africa -- while Ski Saudi and Snow Oman are also in development, according to a KOP release.
An estimated completion date for Wintastar Shanghai has yet to be announced.