BEIJING (AP) — Canadian freestyle skier Elena Gaskell twists and leans back to grab her ski as she flies off the end of a manufactured ramp covered in snow.
Associated Press photographer Jae C. Hong captured her from the air on Sunday, framed by wintry skies and a pair of chimneys. From this vantage point, Gaskell appears to be taller than a dense cluster of high-rise buildings in the distance. Not in the shot: Towering cooling towers nearby that look like the set from a post-apocalyptic movie.
This is not a virgin alpine track.
The extreme sport known as big air made its Olympic debut for snowboarders at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Now skiers are there too, taking in the air against the backdrop of a former steelworks at the western end of Beijing’s urban sprawl.
The incongruous Big Air Shougang scene is a reminder that Beijing is not such a well-known winter sports destination. Most of the downhill action takes place at mountain sites far from the Chinese capital itself.
It’s also a surprising nod to the fact that China’s industrial might remains the world’s biggest carbon polluter, even as the kilns at this site have gone cold.
And yet, the urban industrial race has managed to charm many of those who have been there so far – athletes and TV viewers.
“For me, it was such a contrast,” said Hong, who covers the action at Shougang. “He seemed gloomy. But with the live music and this cool place like I’ve never seen in an industrial district, I think it works.