Winter in Europe wouldn't be winter without a bit of skiing, and this year Switzerland has its sights set on attracting a whole new group of amateur skiers to its slopes -- the Chinese.
Swiss Tourism said Monday it had invited eight Chinese delegates to spend four months zipping down the pistes of its most famous ski stations including Gstaad, St Moritz and Verbier in a bid to tap into the potentially lucrative market.
The sport is not vastly popular in China but there is significant potential, said Swiss Tourism's global accounts director and manager for Asia-Pacific markets, Simon Bosshart.
"In our growth markets, it's still very small in terms of figures but there is a great potential," he said.
China counts around five million skiers for a population of 1.3 billion, he said.
Once the representatives have finished their training, Swiss tourism officials will get feedback on how best to persuade Chinese tourists -- many of whom prefer to take photographs and enjoy the fresh Alpine air than don skis -- to stay a few more days in the mountains.
A confident Bosshart said: "These people may not come just for skiing but they might enjoy the skiing experience for one or two days in Switzerland".
Though the Chinese are top of the Swiss target list, Swiss Tourism also wants to promote winter sports to tourists from other emerging economies such as India and Brazil.