All the ski resorts in Korea opened the season last week. Sports are a big part of a Korean winter, with skiing and snowboarding being popular for decades. The Gangwon-do region is famous for its ski resorts, where the abundance of hills and mountains provide beautiful natural terrain which not only provides exciting skiing but also a feast for the eyes.
The resorts offer much more than just skiing and snowboarding; they have evolved into full sports and leisure parks with many things for the whole family to enjoy. Some operate golf resorts and water parks. The resorts have hotels, condominiums, or hostels as accommodation, along with many other recreation and entertainment facilities. They offer many travel packages and during peak season, have many special events going on for a fun-filled stay.
Tickets are usually purchased in packages or time slots, and many have special discount programs with affiliated sponsors, so check out the websites in advance to get the best deals. Travel agencies would also have special ski packages for a night-stay trip. Equipment and clothing rentals take place both within the resorts and out; the roads heading to the resorts are usually lined with rental shops on the way, so getting a bit of information beforehand is advised. All resorts have in-resort instructors who give lessons for all levels, which can be signed up in advance or, if you’re willing to wait a bit, on the day you go.
Beware: on weekends with perfect skiing weather, the highways from Seoul to the nearby resorts tend to get extremely jammed both coming and going. You’ll have to take into account that you’d be stuck in traffic for quite a while (especially if you’re coming back on a Sunday night) and be resigned to the fact that you’d probably see the bbeongtwigi (뻥튀기, fluffy popped rice) sellers who pop up in the middle of the road and buy some to snack away while the car is at a complete standstill.
Here’s a short introduction to the most well-known resorts:
DAEMYUNG VIVALDI PARK
Situated in the hills of Hongcheon in Gangwon-do, the park is around an hour ride from Jamsil station in Seoul, where their free shuttle bus stops. Very close to Seoul, it is a very popular place for a one day trip and consequently attracts the young clientele in large numbers. The resort has 13 slopes, all named after music genres: “Blues” is the shortest for beginners, with “Classic” somewhere in the middle and “Rock” the steepest for advanced skiers. They have went through major renovations and slope remodeling and have opened in a renewed environment this year. The resort also has excellent facilities (their spa is quite well-known) so if you get tired of skiing, there are a lot of other things to do.
YONG PYONG RESORT
Established in 1975 and situated in PyeongChang, the venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Yong Pyong is known for its incredible slopes, having most of the steepest, longest, widest and highest slopes in Korea. Already a veteran in hosting international competitions, they have a wide range of 28 slopes not only for the full time athlete but for the beginner, as well as a terrain park for the serious snowboarder. They can accommodate up to 20,000 people per day and in peak seasons, can get quite crowded. The snow quality is known to be very good, and being one of the “classic” resorts, greet an old school clientele. The resort runs free shuttle buses with a whopping 92 stops, check out their website for more information.
Also situated in PyeongChang, Phoenix Park will be the main venue for the 2018 Olympics. With 21 slopes, they are offering new slope designs this season inspired by the Olympics and a variety of half-pipes and other designs for avid snowboarders as well. Winter sports enthusiasts usually call the slopes “fun”. The resort has been around since the 90s, so their running of the establishment is quite smooth and endless renovations have kept the resort up to date.
The resort has started running a “white nights” time slot (24:00~4:30) for Friday and Saturday, which will be extended to everyday of the week except Wednesday starting from the second week of December. The resort runs free shuttle buses only within the Gangwon area, other bus passes have to be purchased.
A part of Kangwonland, the major recreation, amusement, casino and entertainment park in Gangwon-do, High 1 has been getting high praise ever since it has been opened and maintained its reputation. Most skiers and snowboarders vouch for the resort’s snow quality; you always see it at the top of the list in various sources. There are 18 slopes, including those fit for international competition, and an impressive 4.2km course for beginners. The mountain tops being so high, the slopes are named after Greek gods: Zeus, Hera, Athena and the like.
With ample resources for amusement and entertainment, the resort has a slew of special events planned for the holiday season. The resort is also home to the famous Korean dining restaurant, Unamjeong (운암정), which was featured in the Korean TV Drama “Sikgaek” (2008). Reservations are a must.
A ski resort in the southern region of Jeolla-do, Muju Resort lies in the heart of Deogyusan National Park, surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in Korea. Aptly, one of the slopes that ease down a hill of snow flower trees is called the “Silk Road”. The slope, which starts at the mountain top, is also the longest in Korea at 6,100 m. The resort has 21 slopes in total, from the leisurely beginner slopes to the killer steep expert slopes.
Besides the slopes, the area is famous for the “33 sights of Gucheon-dong” which makes a great detour to enjoy after skiing. The sights are comprised of natural cliffs and waterfalls, streams and brooks, the forests of the mountain itself. Besides Deogyusan, there are more than 5 mountains to see in the area as well.
Sungwoo Resort is situated between the mountains of Odaesan (오대산) and Chiaksan (치악산), a little further than Vivaldi Park from Seoul. It is known for its variety of 19 well designed slopes of 5 different levels, attracting a lot of snowboarders in particular, although hardcore skiers mention that the slopes “feel” rather on the short side. The resort is also famous for having a very kid-friendly downhill sledding section. Being very close to Hwoengseong county, which is famous for its hanu beef (한우), the resorts’ restaurants are also known for the beef dishes and barbeque. The resort runs free shuttle buses from the Seoul-Gyeonggi area and other major provincial cities.
Bears Town is less than an hour away from Seoul, towards the north east in Pocheon. The resort has 11 slopes and boasts the longest 400m sledding hill in Korea. They only have one expert course, so if you need a challenging slope, it might be best to look elsewhere. They are offering major deals for late night skiing and many discounts with affiliated card companies. The resort is also having an all-night time slot that runs until 4:00 am. The resort operates free shuttle buses from Seoul and the satellite cities.
Other notable ski resorts are:
ALPENSIA RESORT : http://www.alpensiaresort.co.kr
EDEN VALLEY RESORT : http://www.edenvalley.co.kr
ELYSIAN : http://www.elysian.co.kr
JISAN FOREST RESORT : http://www.jisanresort.co.kr
KONJIAM RESORT : http://www.konjiamresort.co.kr
O2 RESORT : http://www.o2resort.com
OAK VALLEY : http://www.oakvalley.co.kr
PINE RESORT : http://www.pineresort.com
SAJO RESORT : http://www.sajoresort.co.kr
STAR HILL RESORT : http://www.starhillresort.com
The weather being mercurial as it is, not all of the slopes within the resorts have opened, so as with everything else, be sure to check out all information before heading out. All sites have English available.
*Main photo courtesy of Vogue Girl Korea.