As the sun falls, so do ski costsAt ski resorts in Korea, the night is always young.
It used to be that younger Koreans would ski during the day and stay awake in their hotels all night, drinking and playing games. Almost all ski resorts in Korea have karaoke bars, bowling alleys and nightclubs that stay open through the night. Convenience stores stock up on playing cards and alcoholic beverages, while a series of flushed faces constantly get on and off the hotel elevators past midnight.
But there are people who spend the wee hours sober ― and on the slopes. Night skiing has become a popular option over the years partly because of the cheaper rental costs and lift passes during those hours.
Among average office workers and young students who are short on time and money, night skiing is a great way to get in more time on the slopes and save money. At most resorts in Korea, night ticket prices are about half the day rates, and there are rarely any lines to slow you down.
This year, family visitors are expected to take more advantage of the “happy hour,” as most resorts have raised the cost of skiing. Yongpyong has raised prices 6 percent this year; other resorts have risen by 5 percent.
In Phoenix Park, the second-largest ski resort in Korea, lift passes drop to 42,000 won starting at 6:30 p.m., from 53,000 won during the day. Between 10 p.m. to midnight, the price falls even further, to 31,000 won.
At Vivaldi Park in Hongcheon, Gangwon province, lift passes at night (10 p.m. to midnight) drop to 29,000 from 37,000 won. At Jisan, there is a 30 percent discount on night ski lessons.
For hardcore skiers, there are also early morning passes available at Vivaldi Park, from midnight to 5 a.m., at 27,000 won. The company, however, will begin offering the morning passes next Friday due to the lack of snow.
So far this season, the slopes have disappointed most veteran skiers, with unusually warm temperatures and frequent rain. Indeed, most ski resorts throughout Korea have delayed their opening date until this weekend or next week because of the warm weather. A spokeswoman at Bears Town in Pocheon, Gyeonggi province, says the resort is ready to open as soon as the temperature drops.
“For veterans, the experience of night skiing could be much smoother than during the daytime,” says Park Jong-hun, a ski instructor at Phoenix Park, which became the first resort to open last weekend. “There are fewer people around, which lowers the chances of bumping into other people.”
Choi Ae-rim, a 20-year-old student from Wonju, agrees.
“The slopes were way too slushy during the day,” she says. “I almost felt hot after few hours.
“Night skiing also avoids the hassle of putting on sun cream and extra make-up to avoid tanning. It’s easier to ski at night in this weather.”
Night skiing is normally recommended in February and March, when the evening temperatures begin to moderate a little.
But the current warm weather couldn’t keep snow-starved skiers from the slopes. Last weekend, a flock of ski enthusiasts swarmed into Phoenix Park. Rooms for standard-sized bedrooms at condominiums were over-booked; lift lines and rental counters were full of tourists from Japan and China, who, according to the park management, make up 30 percent of the resort’s visitors every year.
By the early evening, fireworks painted the night sky of Pyeongchang, one of the three finalists in the bid to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Most trails were lit for night skiing in Phoenix Park, including a halfpipe for snowboarders.
“It’s not too bad,” says Choi Gang-il, an office worker in Seoul and a snowboarder. “Hopefully, it will get better later in the night.”
Another advantage of night skiing is that it allows skiers to enjoy the tranquil scenery, either on lifts or gondolas above the lighted slopes or while coming down the slopes.
The snow that sparkles on the illuminated slopes makes for a romantic atmosphere, although the loud snowplow on every slope makes the atmosphere more boisterous than enchanting.
For those who have never tried night skiing, it can seem dangerous, but according to experts, the snow quality and the skiing are often better at night. The bright white of flood lamps shows the bumps and the texture of the snow better than the flat light of late afternoon, making skiing a little easier.
Mr. Park, a ski instructor at Phoenix Park, says the chance of accidents are no higher at night than during the day. Also, there were fewer people around, so there’s less of a chance of a collision.
Experts, however, warn that more serious accidents could occur at night, especially among people with night blindness.
Most ski resorts offer evening classes for beginners. For example, Phoenix Park has night lessons from 7 to 9 p.m.
“There are some risks involved with goggles and sunglasses on,” says Yun Yong-ho, a ski instructor at Phoenix Park’s Ski School. “But with the current lighting facilities there is not as much danger involved in night skiing as in the past.”
by Park Soo-mee