Fresh Powder

The Korean “Alps” await skiers looking for a new frontier

By: Allen Salkin

A great add-on for clients heading to Korea this winter is a three-day ski trip to the Korean “Alps.” Korea is famous for its glorious fall and spring seasons, but adventurous clients will glory in being able to tell folks back home that they skied Korea, something not many Americans have done yet.

Lots of money has been spent on lifts, gondolas, hotels, snowmaking and spa facilities over the last decade and the results are starting to attract attention.

While there are 12 relatively popular ski resorts in Korea, the dependable quality and quantity of snow at two of the resorts have made them a focus. The Yongpyong Resort in Gangwon-do province and the Muju Resort in Jeollabuk-do province are two of the highest on the peninsula, reaching 5,000 feet in altitude. Both are located two to four hours driving time from Seoul.

The nation’s oldest ski resort is Yongpyong. It has a long gondola which ferries skiers from the base to the 4,717-foot peak. From the top, Korea’s East Sea and soaring Mt. Odaesan are visible on clear days.

Yongpyong has hosted World Cup ski races but, like many Korean destinations, it prefers to market itself based on a popular television drama which was filmed at its location. In this case, the drama was a love story called “Winter Sonata.” In promotional literature, Yongpyong suggests lovers stop for an intimate moment while boarding the gondola. “Why don’t you create your own kiss scene here in the secretive place?” they inquire.

At Yongpyong, there’s a swimming pool, sauna, disco and karaoke facilities.

There are three traditional Korean restaurants to recommend around Yongpyong for apres-ski grub. Gohyang Iyagi, Odaesan Gagneum Gil and Sigol Bapsang can all be reached via taxi from the resort.

Muju Ski Resort
Another option is the Muju Ski Resort, which opened in 1990 in Mt. Deokyusan National Park. It has 23 slopes, including the nation’s longest run, the four-mile Silk Road, offering a gentle slope that both beginner and intermediate skiers will be able to handle.

Muju also boasts the nation’s steepest run, the Raider Course at the peak, to get black diamond skiers’ adrenaline moving. And within the resort, there are Western and Korean restaurants, a pub, an arcade, an internet cafe and a sauna.

For clients who must ski everywhere, it is possible to book these trips through a company with U.S. offices called America Tour, which does pay commissions. Prices, including airfare from the U.S. and three days skiing, start at $1,400. America Tour can also help add a ski portion to a larger Korean itinerary.

Both resorts can also be visited on a do-it-yourself basis. Shuttle buses are timed to hook up with regular bus departures from Seoul.

Smaller Resorts
Apart from the two main resorts, several smaller resorts are also attractive options and have several distinctive draws.

A smaller resort in Gangwon-do, the Alps Ski Resort has only eight slopes and five lift lines, but it is a short distance from the famous Cheoksan Hot Springs. The waters of Cheoksan are said to cure skin diseases, neuralgia and rheumatism all potential side effects from the bumps and spills of skiing.

Alps Ski Resort also has the nation’s only ski museum, exhibiting the history of the sport.

Another resort to consider is the well-thought-out Bearstown in Gangwon-do. The resort features night-skiing and nine lifts, including a 3,930-foot-long high-speed quad. The lifts open at 6 a.m. each day, so early risers can start carving turns hours before late-night partiers awake.

There is extensive snow-making at Bearstown as there is at most Korean resorts to make sure that the ski season happens with or without Mother Nature’s cooperation.

Bearstown also has a nice range of accommodation, with two large condo developments, a 196-room tower and a Youth Hostel at the base.

With gloriously wide and gentle slopes, Phoenix Park in Gangwon-do is a good choice for beginners. There’s also a special snowboard park. with a halfpipe and rails. Its “Key Lift” and Gondola system shuttles skiers to the top of the mountain quickly, and Phoenix Park can be reached easily from Seoul via public bus and a free shuttle.

Closer to Seoul is the Hyundai Sungwoo Resort, just an hour-and-a-half by highway. There are ski lessons offered in English, a youth hostel, Korea’s first eight-person gondolas and a health club.

But the closest skiing to Seoul is the appropriately named Seoul Ski Resort in Namyangju-si province. With just four slopes and four lifts, the variety is not great, but it is located on Mt. Baekbongson, known for heavy snowfall.


Korea National Tourism Organization

America Tour

Ski Resorts:
Muju Resort

Yongpyong Resort

Bearstown Resort

Seoul Ski Resort