Temperatures shut Harbin Ice and Snow World early

Multiple ice- and snow-centric tourist destinations in north-eastern China have been forced to close one to two weeks earlier than usual due to rising temperatures.

Last week, Harbin Ice & Snow World announced that it would no longer accept visitors after 15 February due to “rising temperatures and windy weather.” Located in China’s northernmost province, Heilongjiang, the theme park usually closes for the season in late February or early March. 

According to Harbin Daily, the city’s temperature rose sharply on 12 February to a daytime high of approximately 4C, which was followed by another rise four days later. Upstream News said some of the park’s smaller snow and ice sculptures became structurally unstable or even collapsed as the temperature rose.

On 31 December, the Harbin attraction was recognised by Guinness World Records as “the world’s largest ice and snow theme park”. It was open for a total of 61 days this winter and received 2.71 million visitors. 

Just after the Harbin closure announcement, The Paper reported that the Heilongjiang skiing destination Xuexiang National Forest Park had also halted operations, while Beijing Youth Daily detailed multiple other unusual closures of ice and snow attractions. 

This winter has ushered in a significant rise in Chinese ice and snow tourism. The city of Harbin became the most popular destination: Xinhua News Agency reported that between 10 and 17 February alone, it hosted more than 10 million visitors, generating 16.42 billion yuan (US$2.28 billion) in tourism revenue – a year-on-year increase of 235%.

However, this enthusiasm has been reined in by China’s mild winter. Southern Weekend investigated 50 ski resorts in China to discover that, since November, 10 have delayed opening or temporarily suspended operations due to “too-high temperatures”. During December’s Jilin Ice and Snow Industry International Expo, the honorary secretary-general of the UN World Tourism Organization issued this warning: “The first challenge that ice and snow tourism destinations need to face is global warming.”

And that warming is not only causing rising temperatures. This week, northern, central and eastern China has experienced widespread snowfall and freezing, with Beijing Youth Daily reporting plummeting temperatures and the closure of multiple scenic spots.

Read China Dialogue’s earlier report on how China should respond to ice melt under climate change.