Eileen Gu / Gu Ailing’s Dry Slope Training

The 18 year-old freestyle skier known as Eileen Gu in the Western world and Gu Ailing (谷爱凌) to Chinese speakers, has had some sensational results in the X Games, World Championships and Winter Olympics over the past few years. American-born Gu decided to compete for China, her mother’s homeland, in 2019 and became the youngest ever Olympic champion in freestyle skiing at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing in February. Winning gold medals in big air and halfpipe, as well as a silver medal in slopestyle. She is also now the first freestyle skier to win three medals at a single Winter Olympics.

Having learned to ski at Lake Tahoe in California, China’s Global Times newspaper reported that like many is top skiers and boarders around the world, Gu has been training at a dry ski facility, in her case a facility in Chengdu in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province. Su Yiming, who took silver in the men’s slopestyle final, is also reported to have trained there in the past.

The Chengdu facility use’s China’s homegrown “needle mushroom” dry ski slope technology from JF DrySki, the company behind the Chengdu Four Seasons Ski Resort, China’s largest.

Zhang Wei of JF DrySki told the Global Times that, “…the ‘needle mushroom’ design excels in safety and practicability. The small ball-shaped design at the top also ensures it does not slow down skiers or boarders even when spinning through 360 degrees.”

Zhang, whose company built the Chengdu facility in 2012 to prove the viability of their surface, which itself had been perfected from hundreds of prototypes over the previous decade, says that the mat contains 16,600 small balls in every square metre of surface area.

He said that eight Chinese national teams, with over 70 athletes between them, trained at the Chengdu centre in the last year, including Eileen Gu/Gu Ailing. Zhang added that the “celebrity effect” had led to a five-fold jump in business at the facility, which is open to all.   

JF DrySki now operate or have supplied their surface to more than 40 centres across China.