Ski season lifts off with new resorts and cool night runsThis year’s ski season has begun already, with most ski resorts in Gangwon province open. The first snow of the season fell early this month, but it barely accumulated an inch.
The mountainous Gangwon province is the most popular destination for skiing in the country. Korea has 15 ski resorts and eight of them are located in that province.
Some ski resorts have added wider slopes (100 meters or more) or installed faster lifts and gondolas. Runs for night skiing have also expanded. At the coolest resorts this normally starts around 10 p.m. and ends around 2 a.m, when floodlights are turned off. However, the most welcome news for skiers and snow boarders is that two new ski resorts will open next month.
Oak Valley Snow Park in Wonju city, Gangwon province and High1 in Jeongseon county, also in Gangwon province, are opening on Dec. 1 and Dec. 8 respectively. High1 was built on Mount Baekun, which stands 1,376 meters (4,514 feet) above sea level. It has 18 slopes and their combined length is 21 kilometers (13 miles), which is the third longest in Korea behind Yongpyong Resort (31 kilometers) and Muju Resort (22 kilometers). According to Park Eun-hee, a High1 employee, the slopes are steeper than those at other ski resorts. There are 10 slopes for advanced skiers and the rest are for intermediate skiers and beginners.
One of High1’s assets is that even the slopes for beginners start from the mountaintop. So family members take the same gondola and then can choose different courses depending on their level of skill. High1 boasts an 80 -meter-wide beginners’ slope which runs for 4.2 kilometers (2.6 miles) from the mountain peak.
The resort has three gondolas and five lifts. Off the gondolas, skiers can get on 11 different conveyor belts, or moving walks, to arrive at different slopes.
The drawback of the new resort is that it has so little accommodation for skiers ― there are only 403 time-share apartments available, no hotels and it’s a long distance from Seoul. It takes four hours to drive to the resort. To make up for the disadvantages, the resort is running a “ski train” from Seoul central train station (it also stops at Cheongnyangni station) to Gohan station in Jeongseon. The train has 354 seats and takes about four hours.
“Gangwon Land casinos, which operates High1, did not build so many time-share apartments because the company wanted to benefit the community,” said Ms. Park.”They wanted to encourage skiers to stay in accommodations owned by the residents.”
Jeongseon county used to be a mining area in steep decline. Casinos were opened to revive the community. Gangwon Land casinos are five minutes away from the ski resort.
Another attraction at the resort is the rotating restaurant at the top of Mount Baekun, which allows diners a panoramic view of Mount Jijang where the casinos are based. An adult’s season lift ticket can be purchased for 450,000 won ($470) and there is a 100,000 won discount until Dec. 8 at www.interpark.com. Children get a 10per cent discount on lift tickets at High1 and all the other ski resorts in Korea
To get to High1 take the Yeongdong Expressway bound for Gangneung. At Manjong fork take the road for Jecheon. At the tollgate head for Yeongwol, Sabuk, then Gohan. For information, visit www.high1.co.kr and call 033-590-7800.
? Oak Valley Snow Park is smaller but much closer to Seoul; the journey takes around two hours. It has nine slopes with a collective length of 6 kilometers. There are three lifts ― the Mountain lift can seat eight people while the Flower lift can take six and the Bird lift takes four. There are half-pipe and terrain park courses for intermediate snowboarders.
The resort has 960 time- share apartments. A seasonal lift ticket costs 420,000 won if purchased on the Internet (www.oakvalley.co.kr) and there is a 70,000 won discount until Nov. 30. For information, call 033-730-3500.
? Yongpyong Resort was the first to open this year, on Nov. 13. The biggest ski resort in Korea, it has 70 new snowmakers bringing its total to 120. The Greenpia time-share complex with 338 rooms will open in December. The 1.5-kilometer-long Gold Paradise slope is open for night skiing along with 12 other slopes. It has 31 slopes and 15 lifts, including a 3.7-kilometer-long gondola. A one- way ride on the gondola, which the resort says is the longest in Asia, takes 20 minutes. The gondola delivers skiers to the top of Mount Balwang.
The resort already has a wide slope (180 meters) for snowboarders, which opened during the 2004-2005 season. In addition to ski facilities, the resort has a swimming pool, sauna, game room, PC room, bowling alley, karaoke, and 45-hole indoor golf course. The resort recently added a jjimjilbang, a Korean style sauna.
It takes two hours to reach the resort on the Yeongdong Expressway. A season ski ticket costs 450,000 won for an adult. A single day ticket is 59,000 won. Call 1588-0009 or visit www.yongpyong.co.kr for information.
○ Vivaldi Park in Hongcheong county, Gangwon province, has also installed additional snowmakers and lights for night skiing. The resort has a large water park and spa, Ocean World, which opened in July, and recently the resort also opened a spacious jjimjilbang. The resort has a nursery with babysitters. A seasonal ticket is priced at 620,000 won. For information, call 1588-4888 or visit www.daemyungresort.com/vp/.
○ Hyundae Sungwoo Resort in Hoengseong county, Gangwon province, has combined two slopes into one creating a course for beginners, Delta Plus, which is 1 kilometer long and 130 meters wide on average. It now has a total of just 19 slopes. A season ticket sells for 400,000 won. For information, visit www.hdsungwoo.co.kr or call 033-340-3000.
○To the delight of parents, Phoenix Park in Pyeongchang has opened Kids Club, a nursery with professional babysitters. The nursery accepts children from 3 to 7 years of age. A season ticket costs 370,000 won to 440,000 won depending on the availability of time-share memberships. For information call 1588-2828 or visit the website at www.phoenixpark.co.kr.
○Gangchon Resort, located in Chuncheon, Gangwon province, is the closest to Seoul among the ski resorts located in Gangwon province. By car it is about 40 minutes from Seoul. It has 10 slopes and six lifts. Several slopes will be open from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. for night skiing and they have some of the best floodlights. The resort’s adult season tickets is 470,000 won. For information, call 033-260-2000 or go to www.gangchonresort.co.kr.
○Muju Resort in Muju, North Jeolla province, added a conveyor belt, or moving walk, for beginners, with the total of four conveyor belts. The resort has the longest Silk Road slope (6.1 kilometers) and the steepest slope in Korea, called Raiders. The resort is the only one with two bases and so seems like two ski resorts. The resort added recessed areas between slopes and in the middle of slopes so that it is easier for skiers to get to the rest areas and the rest areas no longer get too crowded. The resort has an outdoor spa. A season ticket sells for 750,000 won. For information, call 063-355-9000 or visit www.mujuresort.com.
For those who plan to ski for more than 15 days during the season, a season ticket purchase is recommended. A Seasonticket comes with various benefits at other facilities in the respective resorts including discounts in cafeterias, swimming pools, saunas and restaurants.
by Limb Jae-un