These Hills Are Alive With the Sounds of 'Fore!'In the sweltering heat of the Korean summer, most people do not think of skiing. But as snow-covered ski trails give way to green scenery, four popular ski resorts in Korea undergo a rebirth every summer to become vacation getaways. Phoenix Park, Yongpyong Resort, Hyundai Sungwoo Resort and Muju Resort all have something for everyone, from golf courses and mountain biking, to family cooking competitions and even a Finnish sauna.
Phoenix Park in Kangwon province has some fun alternatives to rejuvenate your mind and body. In the name of health, there is a therapeutic walking course beside the condominiums. The path is lined with stones. Walking along the path in bare feet is supposed to stimulate nerve endings that relax the rest of the body.
The park boasts two golf courses, including one that Jack Nicklaus designed. Pak Se-ri, Kim Mi-hyun, Kang Soo-yun and other top golfers from Korea have putted on Mr. Nicklaus' 18 hole course. The most picturesque, and most difficult, hole on this layout is the 11th. It is a par-4 on an island, so you may need to bring extra golf balls. Tee times begin at 5 a.m.
The other course has six holes, and tee times there start at 5:30 a.m.
Phoenix Park's best summer charm used to be its quietness. While that has not totally vanished, the resort has recently developed what they call the "action experience program." Wear comfortable clothes and sneakers and get ready to put on a helmet for this program takes you through an obstacle course inspired by army training camps. You may have to walk on a log high above the ground, crawl across a shaky, unstable bridge and cross a river by balancing on ropes.
For more information, call 02-527-9541~4 (limited English available).
Lee Bong-ju, winner of this year's Boston marathon, trained here on the Taebaek mountain range. Health and leisure come together on these picturesque mountains of Kangwon province.
The resort is one of the few places in Korea with cross-country ski trails. A team of professional downhill bikers has redesigned some of these trails, and combined with downhill trails the result is superb mountain-biking courses. One of the longest course is 20 kilometers and leads from the resort to the coast. The trails are tentatively scheduled to open on Friday. Bikes can be rented.
If mountain biking sounds too strenuous, try playing the survival game. Participants sometime dress in army fatigues to engage in a war game with paint-ball guns.
Yongpyong also offers two golf courses; one has 18 holes, the other has nine. Caddies are not allowed at the larger course, which is open to members only. Tee times begin at 5:30 a.m. Two holes in particular stand out. The par-5 eighth hole is set against a spectacular mountain, and the par-4 17th hole is next to a lake. Tee times at the smaller course begin at 5 a.m.
After a full day of exercising, head to the Finnish sauna at the Dragon Hill Lodge.
For more information, call 02-3404-8101~3 (limited English available).
HYUNDAI SUNGWOO RESORT
You're interested in the best mountain view, but how? Hike? Done that. Ride a cable car? Done that, too. Hot air balloon? Hmmm, sounds great.
At Sungwoo Resort, in Kangwon province, the hot air balloons are tethered to the ground; but even at 50 meters they provide a great view and a most uncommon experience.
A more relaxed way of taking in the scenery is eating at the Sky Buffet, a restaurant set on the mountainside. The mountain views from 890 meters above sea level may make you put your cutlery down and pause in mid-bite.
On Saturday, families get a chance to show off their culinary skills at a cooking contest hosted by the resort and specializing in food from the region.
For more information, call 033-340-3000 (Korean only).
Against the background of Deokyusan National Park in North Cholla province, Muju Resort boasts spectacular hiking trails. The natural attractions of the national park are easily accessible from the resort.
A gondola from the resort goes near one of the peaks, Seolcheonbong. As you ride up, you can take in the scenery of the national park.
A path leads from Seolcheonbong to the top of the mountain range, Hyangjeokbong. The steeper part of the trail has artificial steps, making it an easy hike for children and elderly people.
If you bring corn or acorns, you can feed the many squirrels along the way. The summit is a great place for photos.
Nearby is a spring where you can drink the cool water before heading to Jungbong － a good idea since this is the only spring on the way to Jungbong, a 20-minute hike.
Along this path stand centuries-old yew trees and Korean firs. The path also goes through Gucheondong Valley, one of the best sight-seeing spots at Mount Deokyu.
For more information, call 063-322-9000 (Korean only).
by Joe Yong-hee