The Wonders of Skiing in Korea

Hi friends!

Depending on where you’re located right now, you could be enjoying a balmy, breezy summer (hello, Melbourne) or perhaps feeling the winter chill. Me, I’m riding the rollercoaster that seems to be a Korean winter. About a month ago, it started getting icy here, but since then it has sometimes actually been quite sunny and pretty (although still well below zero). Whether we are in the midst of a cold snap or the sun is coming out to greet us, there is one thing I know for sure about Korean winters: they give me a great excuse to ski at every opportunity.

Korea is a mountainous country, one of the many things I love about it. Because of this, there are many and varied ski resorts available to indulge in one of the finer/richer sports in life. Also, skiing here is actually much cheaper than a lot of other places (hi again, Melbourne, and all of Australia, and also NZ) because Korea is AWESOME. Need to know more? Let me explain.

Me on da slopes at Yongpyong
Me on da slopes at Yongpyong

Firstly, the skiing is amazing. So many mountains equals so many skiings… or something. Just trust me when I say that you ain’t gotsta worry ’bout a thang, lil’ shawty.

Next, it’s Drew Carey style, and by that I mean the price is right (badum tish!). Admittedly, I have never skiied in Australia (my only other experience has been on the slopes of Argentinian Patagonia, le sigh) but by all accounts it’s horrendously expensive and not necessarily comparable to other ski utopias of the world. I like to count Korea in this group.

Finally, everything is so organised and if you are able to speak Korean, you are sweet. If not, well… it can get a little bit complicated. Luckily for us, we know enough people/aren’t afraid to harass enough Korean teachers to get our bus tickets booked and our accommodation sorted (usually by the skin of our teeth, just the way we like it!).

So what are your options?

Yongpyong Ski Resort (용평 리조트 스키장)

This is the first ski resort I visited in Korea (about a month ago) and I really enjoyed my time there. Gavin and I went on an organised When in Korea (WinK) trip, which is a great way to meet other expats and also to SAVE LOADS OF MONEY. Seriously, the deals these guys get are insane.

We stayed at a hostel, and although there were 16 noisy people in the one room (not ideal for introverts, I’ll be honest), there were individual curtains in the bunks and the bathrooms were clean and huge (the girls’ ones, at least). The best thing was that the hostel was literally a 3-minute walk to the slopes. So easy. I find skiing to be an awesome but also slightly arduous task, basically just because it takes so long to get yourself together before you are even up on the slopes. So being this close to the actual skiing part really makes it easy. There are heaps of different runs to choose from (beginner for me!) which are all in great condition, and as someone who is still learning how to properly ski, they are great to practice on.

The view from the (beginners') slopes at Yongpyeong
The view from the (beginners’) slopes at Yongpyeong

I had an amazing time at Yongpyong and would definitely go again. The runs weren’t too busy and they were at the right levels (eg. the beginner’s slope was definitely okay for real beginners). Yongpyong is considered one of the nicer ski resorts in the Seoul area, and if you ever in the area do yourself a favour and check it out!

Click here for the official Yongpyong Ski Resort site (in English!)

Phoenix Ski Park (휘닉스파크)

We went to Phoenix Ski Park over the winter vacation and I had an amazing time there – least of all because of the actual skiing! I was sick and needed a break after a hectic year, as did Gavin. So we rented a half-Greek, half-Japanese place called NikoMiko (as in Mykonos) Pension and had a grand old time… doing nothing.

We stayed in the Japanese style room which was authentic, wooden and so warm. It even had a heated bed! Given, the bed was actually a block of wood but it was so amazing. We have gotten used to sleeping on the floor here, we actually both prefer it to beds now (something to do with feeling ‘grounded’ maybe?) I honestly had the best time on this holiday, because our pension so isolated and quiet. There were enough shops close by (about a 7 minute walk) and THE most amazing galbi (Korean barbecue) restaurant with absolutely perfect Hanu (한우, high quality, native Korean) beef in the nearby Co-Op Sweethouse (yes that’s it’s name and no, I don’t know what happens in there). I have had my fair share of galbi by now, and honestly this was possibly the best stuff I have ever had. Tender, juicy and flavourful, it’s the stuff dreams are made of.

Nikomiko Pension website (Korean only)

The view from Nikomiko <3
The view from Nikomiko <3

Overall, we didn’t actually do that much skiing at Phoenix Park. The day we got there, we were both brutally tired and sleepy (me moreso) because of our incredibly early start that morning. We made it to the ski centre and Gavin found the most helpful, best English-speaking Korean man ever. He was so kind, he said that the taxis there are very expensive (at 10,000 won they’re not actually expensive but much moreso than usual) so he arranged for one of the ski park’s cars to just pick us up and take us there. So kind!

The one day we did go, it was super busy and we didn’t actually ski that much. Given, it was the Christmas holidays and so obviously a peak time. However, the lines were insanely long and while we were waiting we got so cold that we didn’t really want to keep on. I’m not kidding, we were in one line for about 20 minutes (the lifts were super slow and only sat a few people each) and that sort of did it for us. I’m sure if we went another time it would be better, but I was honestly much happier chilling at our pension watching Shark Tank!

Click here for the official Phoenix Park website (in English… however, the Korean site has WAY more information so ask your Korean chingu to help you if possible!)

High1 Ski Resort (하이원 리조트)

We went to High1 Ski Resort two weeks ago and it was the best time ever. Part of this was because it was my friend Sophie’s birthday weekend and so obviously it was always going to be awesome. However, on top of this, we happened to be in possibly the best ski resort that ever existed (at least according to my limited knowledge!).

Welcome to High1!

High1 Ski Resort is epic. It truly is on another level (not just because it’s on a mountain) and I think it would put a lot of ski resorts to shame. Our friends organised a pension for us to share between 14 of us, and it was way nicer than what I was expecting. We took a bus from Jamsil at 8pm (which we just managed to book in time, woohoo!) and arrived there before 11pm. When we got in there, we had to walk along for a while and arrange a pension for the night, which was cosy and convenient and only cost 25,000won. All up, including one stop, it took roughly 2 hours and 40 minutes, which ain’t bad at all. High1 is actually one of the ski resorts furthest from Seoul, which also makes it quieter and better for skiing, but we got a good ‘run’!

Speaking of, the actual skiing at this place is amazing. No joke, it’s insane. This place is huge. There are slopes for days and it just doesn’t stop. They snake around these magnificent mountains and it’s all so peaceful. You take a gondola from the ski base which ferries you as high as you want to go, and you can go really high: all up, it takes 40 minutes to get to the top. Honestly, my ears were subtly popping and I had to keep equalising them. Not for the faint of heart! But the views alone are worth it, and the long trip up means it’s a loooong time before you get down to the bottom. Definitely good value in terms of waiting in line vs. actual skiing time.

Another thing that was amazing about High1 was their night skiing. Our friend had managed to organise us a special all-day pass which included skiing from 1-10pm, and we actually skied for that long (despite a delicious Domino’s dinner break, mmm!). The best thing about night skiing was how much quieter and calmer it was. One reason why I want to become a better skier is because there are always SO many people on the beginner’s slopes and it really freaks me out. I can’t really relax and get into the groove when there are children and uncoordinated beginner’s (I include myself in that group) sliding around, while some experts coming down from the black runs above swoosh past my head. During night time, you don’t need to worry about that. The slopes are your oyster! It was so beautiful and such a great experience.

One small caution about High1: the runs may not necessarily be at the level they are advertised. Basically, their beginners’ runs are not beginners, and that is evidenced by the fact that us beginners may or may not have had some epic falls on some seriously steep ice patches (unless you’re my mum reading this, in which case this definitely didn’t happen. Hi mum!). If you’ve never skiied before, try elsewhere and work up to the glorious, heady slopes of High1.

Click here for the official High1 Ski Resort site (in English!)

The fam at High1 Ski Resort
The fam at High1 Ski Resort

Overall, skiing in Korea is amazing and definitely something you should take advantage of. For the beginners out there, cut your teeth at Yongpyong before tackling the big wigs of High1 (and obviously I need to give Phoenix Park another go!). If anyone has any other ski park recommendations, I’d love to hear them and perhaps try them too!

Thanks for reading, speak to y’all soon,

Steph x