Get Ready to Hit the SlopesSki season starts in less than two weeks. It's time to dig out your winter sports gear － your choice of ski or snowboard － and spend a weekend or longer in the snow-covered mountains.
Nestled in the Taebaik Mountain range in Kangwon province, a three-hour drive from Seoul, Yongpyong is the oldest ski resort in Korea. It is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
Yongpyong's highest point is 1,458 meters above sea level, and its lowest point is 750 meters above sea level, so the mountain is often covered with snow. The ski slopes are world class. Yongpyong was the site of the World Cup Alpine Ski Games in 1998 and is under consideration for the Winter Olympics in 2010.
The ski resort has 15 lifts and 18 slopes, including three additions certified by the International Ski Federation. The three － classified as rainbow red, silver and gold － were developed for the World Cup Alpine Ski Games.
There are also slopes for snowboarders. The slopes － New Yellow, New Green, Green and New Gold － are equipped with jump bases and half-pipe facilities.
A recently installed gondola offers a view of the East Sea. The gondola extends 3.7 kilometers and connects to the summit of Balwang Mountain.
If neither downhill skiing nor snowboarding appeals to you, the area also offers cross-country skiing, an indoor ice skating rink, an indoor pool, a bowling alley, indoor racquetball courts, saunas and shopping facilities. A golf course is open when the weather is warm.
At the bottom of the slopes, accommodations include the five-star Dragon Valley Hotel, Tower Condominium, Villa Condo-minium, Yongpyong Condo-minium and Yongpyong Hostel. Although several of the accommodations are labeled condominiums, they are actually hotel suites and are often rented for an extended time.
The recreation and vacation area extends beyond the resort to nearby places including the coast of the East Sea, Odae Mountain National Park and the Jeongson area. Taekwalryong Museum, Chamsori Museum and Songyojang － the house of a Chosun Dynasty army officer － are near the East Sea. A fir tree forest, Woljongsa Buddhist Temple and Bangadari springs are on Odae Mountain. The Jeongson area also has Hwaam Cave and Donghae Mooryong Valley.
Yongpyong will be host to the 19th Yongpyong International Ski Festival on Feb. 9 through 12, including an Alpine giant slalom competition. Last year, 800 participants from more than a dozen countries participated in the weekend festival. Lift tickets for adults at Yongpyong cost from 28,000 won to 38,000 won, and for children they cost from 20,000 won to 26,600 won.
In 1999, 44,000 foreign skiers visited Yongpyong, and half of them were from other Asian countries.
For beginning skiers there is the Fun Ski Festival, a package that includes lessons, a party and a ski competition. The package is available on a variety of dates between December and March.
Besides Yongpyong, there are other places to ski in Korea. Muju Resort opened in North Cholla province a decade ago. It has 30 slopes, 15 lifts and one gondola. Lift tickets cost 27,000 won to 35,000 won for adults and 19,000 won to 25,000 won for children.
Nearby lodging includes the Family Hotel, Hotel Tirol and Kookmin Hotel.
Phoenix Park is another skiing destination, and it has 12 slopes and nine lifts.
For those looking for a shorter trip, several ski resorts have opened near Seoul. Daemyong is just over an hour's drive from the capital. The resort, which is open until 10:30 p.m., has 13 slopes and 10 lifts.
Daemyung is beginner-friendly and snowboarder-friendly. Lessons are free with equipment rental. Lift tickets for adults are 25,000 won to 45,000 won and 6,000 won to 30,000 won for children.
Hyundai Sungwoo Resort in Kangwon province off the Yongdong Expressway is about an hour's drive from Seoul. It has 20 slopes and nine lifts. The price of lift tickets has not yet been determined, it said.
Jisan Resort, which opened in 1996, has 10 slopes and four lifts. For adults, Lift tickets are 26,000 to 39,000 won for adults and 16,000 to 24,000 won for children.
Yangji Pine Resort is an hour from Seoul at the foot of Dokjo Mountain. It has seven slopes, six lifts and a hill for sledding.
Lift tickets for adults cost from 23,000 won to 35,000 won, and for children they cost 14,000 won to 20,000 won.
by Joe Yong-hee