Northeast China is becoming the ideal place for skiing and snowboard fans; the professional ski slopes are opening up early with the remarkable change in the weather.
But there is more to expect on a visit to Jilin Province: the chance to watch Jilin in rime, considered to be one of the four Great Natural Wonders of China. The three others are the natural landscapes of Guilin, Yunnan's Stone Forests and the Three Gorges by the Yangtze River.
Unique compared to the other three wonders is that the rime over the trees and lake is not apparent every moment of every day. Like the aurora borealis, it is dependent on the weather, time, and season.
So on a trip to see the rime of Northeast China, take advantage of the patience and time to wander.
The Songhua River, flowing through the city of Jilin, does not freeze in the severe cold, so the pines and willows along its banks are lined with fine luminescent water, a beautiful scene of ice lustres like crystal jade.
The 550-square-kilometre Songhua Lake in southeast Jilin City is part of a national scenic resort, with water and monolithic mountains. The river and lake look exceptionally attractive, with shadow the only definitive that distinguishes the trees from its transparent icy cover.
Weedy fence rows, cascading embankments and moist, open woodlands all lend their potential to be a frost-flower site.
The natural spectacle is usually found between November and January, the only time the condensed moisture can convert to water before freezing, with amorphous frost and glaze. Frost flowers form when moisture within the stem of a plant freezes.
The embankments along the river and lake are the best place to pursue a myriad of frost-flowers in bloom.
Only a few species of plants produce frost flowers, and, naturally, the formations never occur in exactly the same manner from one year to the next, let alone one night to the next. This is what makes finding them so special.
Willow trees, pines and white crownbeards are excellent frost flower prospects. They only have a brief life span, so early morning is the best time to find them. The first rays of the sun soften their delicate edges and, well before noon, they melt away completely. Patience is a virtue. If you have to wait another day for the wonderment of rime, the snow paradise of Jilin City is full of interesting spectacles.
Colourful ice lanterns decorate the streets, and fireworks light up the evening through frost-framed windows.
The Jilin Rime and Snow-ice Festival has been held five times since 1991, usually held between December and late January. The festival opens the doors for economic and trade departments and enterprises to introduce themselves, discussing, showing, buying and selling all kinds of products and services.
There is an ice sports complex in the centre of town. The city opens a tourist snow ground and ice entertainment arena on North Hill and Rosefinch Hill. Songhua Lake, Beida Lake and Lianhua Lake ski slopes are the best-equipped professional sites for skiing aficionados.
Tens of thousands of people come here to ride sleds pulled by horses, dogs, and deer, to play and peruse when not on the slopes.
Songhua Lake Ski resort, 24 km away from downtown Jilin is now open to skiers, from late November to next April.
The Beida Lake Resort, 56 km away from downtown Jilin, is a centre for sports and tourism that provides contests, training, tourist and aerobic activities.
If you have enough time, we strongly suggest staying one or two days in Changchun, the capital city of Jilin Province, 60 km from Jilin city centre.
Local guides recommend seeing the Puppet State Imperial Palace and Motion Picture City.
Changchun used to be the capital of the puppet "Manchukuo State," rigged by Japanese invaders. During his 1932-1945 tenure as a bogus emperor, Aisin Gioro Pu Yi has left his legacy there, including his imperial palace, the puppet state council building, with many other large buildings emulating the style.
The well-known Changchun Film Studio, where many outstanding movies have been made, lures visitors with a series of tourist and recreational programmes related to the motion picture industry. It also contains Asia's largest indoor film studio.
Getting there: Flights are available from Beijing to Jilin City (eight flights from 8:10 am - 9 pm every day). Songhua Lake is near downtown, and easy to walk to see the rimed landscape in the morning. To reach the Beida Lake Ski Slopes, taking a taxi is the easiest way, a 40-minute ride that will cost around 100 yuan (US$12).
Songhua Lake Ski Resort is closer. There is a direct shuttle bus from the long-distance bus station. The journey takes about 70 minutes, and costs 3 yuan (US$0.36 ).