By SAM FRIEDMAN
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Former University of Alaska Fairbanks student Qingping Yu has met some of the best skiers in the world through her work in the international alpine skiing industry. When she does, she teaches them a bit about Interior Alaska skiing.
When they ask about her “home mountain,” she said she tells them, “Moose Mountain.”
Yu has skied all over the world, but she’s loyal to the tiny ski hill in the Goldstream Valley where she learned the sport.
Yu, 27, now is preparing China for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics as the sports manager for the Olympic Game’s freestyle ski and snowboard program. She’s also the sales director for Chinese ski and ski tourism business FreeSkiZone. She spends much of her time chasing winter to different mountains around the world.
Yu is originally from Beijing. Despite being from a metropolis, growing up she’s always liked mountains and used to hike up mountains in eastern China with her family. She’s been interested in Alaska since reading about the aurora borealis in a school textbook.
Yu came to the U.S. for college. She took classes at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts and at Randolph College in Virginia. Her advisers and her parents encouraged her to be a physics major, but her heart wasn’t in it, she said. It never occurred to her that she could find a career in outdoor recreation.
“Everyone promotes in the United States for girls to start in science but there are so many ways other than science that can make people happy,” she said. “It’s definitely not the only option.”
Yu arrived in Fairbanks as a tourist in 2010, and as a student-researcher in 2011 for the Alaska Earthquake Information Center. She lived there until 2015, but she’s still one class short of a geophysics degree.
Yu ended up getting her most important education outside the classroom on Interior Alaska’s mountains and ski trails. While in Fairbanks, she loved living in a dry cabin with an Alaska husky. She took the Alaska Alpine Club’s
“Introduction to Ski Mountaineering” class and learned to ski and ice climb.
Her favorite place to go in Alaska is the Castner Glacier, a mountaineering hotspot south of Delta Junction, which she has visited many times, including a trip to the top of prominent regional peak White Princess.
“I feel like the Castner Glacier is the most familiar glacier to me,” she said. “I know everything about that glacier.”
Yu left Fairbanks for a trip back to China writing for iDareX, an action sports media company. This led to her job at FreeSkiZone. Part of her job involves giving foreign journalists tours of Chinese ski slopes.
While translating for a “Powder” Magazine reporter, she met Shan Zhaojian, 79, the father of modern skiing in China. Shan, in addition to being China’s first cross-country skiing national champion, is a historian who has researched 10,000-year-old cave paintings and concluded China is the birthplace of skiing.
Yu described him fondly as “the oldest ski bum” and credits him with recommending her for preparing for the 2022 Olympics. She shares his passion for wanting to develop a ski culture in China.
“In China, we have so many skiers, but we don’t have a ski culture. It’s so ridiculous, people buy 10 pairs of skis. Why do you need 10 pairs of skis? You only have two legs,” she said. “He tries to resist the materialism. He wants to bring kids into the nature, not on their cell phones.”
Yu sent a copy of Shan’s book about the history of skiing to her former Fairbanks mountaineering teacher, who donated it to the university’s Rasmuson Library.
This month, Yu returned to North America. She was observing the Alpine Skiing World Cup in western Canada’s Banff National Park. While there, she’ll take notes on how the competition is run in order to prepare China for its first Winter Olympics.
It was slightly out of the way, but she flew into Fairbanks on her way to Calgary to spend a few days seeing friends and recovering from jet lag.
It was a short trip, but she plans to be back in Alaska soon, she said. She’s got plans to climb the famous Moose’s Tooth in the Alaska Range in May.