Andrea Coatti: Gentle Slopes

A group photo of YiBu Parks’ slope shapers and drivers team. YiBu Parks were built in 2010 in response to the growing need of China’s nascent ski industry for professionally designed and constructed ski resorts.

“That was the first time I got deep into real rural China.” In 2006, 22-year-old Andrea Coatti came to Chongli District, Zhangjiakou, a city adjacent to Beijing, for a ski resort construction project.

First Impression of China

“I didn’t even know it was possible to ski in China.” Evidence to the contrary was part of his earliest memories of China. The day before, he arrived in Beijing, capital of the country, to be amazed by the metropolis preparing for the 2008 Olympic Summer Games. The next day, he found himself heading to a rural area where the street lamps shut off at nine o’clock in the evening, leaving only dim lights from shops and restaurants. “When our Italian manager announced that we had arrived, I was confused: What do you mean? It’s all black and I can’t tell where we are.”

Andrea Coatti shapes a ramp for “Air&Style Beijing,” an international snowboard big air event at the National Stadium (Bird’s Nest) in Beijing.

“In 2006, Chongli was very different.” In those days, Taizicheng was a nondescript village in northern China. By the arrival of 2021, it had become a hub of snow parks and resorts and will host many snow events of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

“It is changing every year.” Fifteen years after Coatti’s first arrival, he is still in Chongli designing ski slopes and witnessing the dramatic changes brought by the booming snow sports industry. “Almost nothing is same now.”  

Designing Snow Parks

After his first trip to Chongli, Coatti has become a frequent visitor of this town as a snow park designer. He has overseen hills transform into shining ski runs one after another.

“Every slope is different,” he noted. “You have to consider the unique contours of every hill. It’s the most beautiful job in the world.”

 As a designer and also a skier, Coatti said watching skiers enjoy his slope designs is even more satisfying than skiing himself. “It is really amazing to watch skiers explore the unexpected ways to use our slopes.”

A snowboarder rides a box feature during the “Bataleon Girls Only” event at Yunju Ski Resort in Beijing.

“I like ‘Yibu’ very much,” he said. He came up with the Chinese name “Yibu” after only a week in China. The phrase means ‘step by step’ in Chinese. “During a banquet, I heard someone saying ‘yi bu yi bu lai.’ I didn’t understand any Chinese at that time. And I asked our translator.”

“I’m not a big planner,” He was drawn to “Yibu” because he likes to do things step by step. “It’s a philosophy or lifestyle that really suits me.”

He also named his company  “YiBu.” In 2010, he built his own snow park in China. “There were still few ski resorts in China back then, and they were only used for occasional events.” He recognizes the need to attract more people to snow sports like skiing and snowboarding. “So first step, provide them a hill.” This was his thinking behind “YiBu Parks.”

His snow park not only welcomes guests, it also offers free snow sports lessons for students from local schools. He considers snow sports excellent outdoor activities for children in winter. He also knows the importance of cultivating the hobby early. “Childhood passion is like a seed,” Coatti explained, citing his own experience falling in love with snow sports as a child.

From Italy to China

Born in Italy, passion for snow and snow sports has become second nature for Coatti. Outside some spots in the far north, Chinese people are mostly just warming up to the concept as the Winter Olympics approaches, and blooming resorts in Chongli make snow sports more attractive and accessible.

“I grew up in a place only five minutes away from a ski slope.” Italy is right on the southern slope of the Alps, an ideal locale for snow sports. Snow sports come naturally to locals. “Usually we don’t even have to go to a ski resort to ski,” he remarked. “You can just find a hill.”

Rails and boxes features placed in YiBu Parks, ready for riders to be used.

After the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Italy will take the baton and become the next host of the Winter Olympics. It will be the fourth time for the European country to host the Winter Olympics.

“Many venues became dilapidated after the Games,” he sighed, referring to venues used in the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. “I hope that the slopes and venues used for the Winter Olympics in China will continue to be used for a long time.”

An Italian through and through, Coatti is also crazy about pizza and loves baking it himself. He has designed new styles with the ingredients available in China. Half-cooked Chinese naan can serve as an ideal crust. His years in China gradually taught him the language, culture, and other things. “Life is always one step at a time.”  

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