Avalanche of upgrades hit ski resorts

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Avalanche of upgrades hit ski resorts

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A snowboarder soars through the air at Vivaldi Park in Hongcheon, Gangwon, as the snow sports season begins. Provided by the resort

Sliding on a snowy road may not be fun in high heels, but it’s an entirely different story when you’re wearing ski or snowboarding gear.

The dropping temperature and increasing humidity in recent weeks has been welcomed by winter-sports lovers after ski resorts postponed their opening dates due to late November’s warmer weather.

But now, with all of Korea’s snowy facilities open for the season, skiers and snowboarders just need to cherry pick the places they want to try out after checking out what features they offer.

Due to worries about the decreasing number of regular visitors, many resorts are competing to retain their usual customers. People in their 20s and 30s generally use snow facilities more than other generations, but because people largely struggle to find full-time jobs or tend to have a low source of income at this age, many resorts are introducing new features to draw in an expanded demographic.

Some resorts have set up day care programs to look after children while parents enjoy the slopes, while others are inviting popular singers and K-pop stars to perform during the night. For party people, some facilities also invite DJs, and for non-skiers, snow trekking is available.

Safety facilities have been upgraded, too, in the wake of the string of disasters that swept through Korea in the last year.


Party at night

Although there are some people who enjoy riding the slopes after sunset, many look for other types of entertainment to make their apres-ski time more memorable.

Several resorts are providing concerts and festivals to entertain the younger generation of people who visit. Phoenix Park in Pyeongchang, Gangwon, is holding its Analogue Music Festival on New Year’s Eve for the first time. Popular indie musicians from the artsy Hongdae university area in northwestern Seoul, including Shinginam, will perform.

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Children play with toys when not learning how to ski from instructors at Phoenix Park in Pyeongchang, Gangwon[JoongAng Ilbo]

For electronic dance music fans, the resort has also invited music DJs to play party music. Indie rockers Crying Nut and other popular singers will join the event to warm up the crowd.

Elysian Gangchon Resort, Chuncheon, Gangwon, is also holding a concert on New Year’s Eve. Duo J2M will play during the daytime while the resort plans to present fireworks to welcome the New Year. It will have idol group Dal Shabet perform on Jan. 17.

Vivaldi Park in Hongcheon, Gangwon, starts hosting music concerts from today. The band Gucckasten will entertain guests there tonight and other popular singers, such as Wheesung and Huh Gak, will take to the stage every Saturday until Feb. 7.


Safety first

After the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry in April, many ski resorts have focused on double- and triple-checking their safety measures.

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Guests to Elysian Gangchon Resort in Chuncheon, Gangwon, enjoy a concert after spending a day out in the snow. [JoongAng Ilbo]

Konjiam Resort in Gwangju, Gyeonggi, one of the closest to Seoul, raised the safety fence on all its slopes to 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) and will operate more patrol groups. It now has five.

Elysian Gangchon Resort has installed extra bars to prevent snow sports lovers from falling out of the lifts up the mountains.

Considering that many first-time skiers find it difficult to get around and adhere to the correct safety measures, the resort has also started a helper system to provide guidance. These helpers will show people how to wear ski and snowboarding gear properly and will even assist with carrying equipment.

Yangji Pine Resort in Yongin, Gyeonggi, held training sessions for its staff at nearby fire stations before opening. They learned how to rescue people when accidents happen on lifts, as well as during other emergency measures.

Welli Hilli Park in Hoengseong, Gangwon, on the other hand, moved its ski and snowboard gear storage lounge to lessen the walk from inside to the slopes after they get their gear to prevent minor accidents.

Yongpyong Resort in Pyeongchang, Gangwon, hired more safety guards this year. It now has 120, and three nurses and an ambulance are ready 24 hours a day at its medical center.

High1 Resort in Jeongseon, Gangwon, has set up nine rest stops on its slopes so that skiers and snowboarders can frequently check how they feel and get enough rest before riding to ground level.


Walk, don’t ski

If you want to enjoy a scenic view but are scared to actually slide on the snow, you can simply go to the top of the slopes and take a walk.

Since these ski resorts are in the mountains their peaks are always covered with snow - whether real or fake.

A trail at High1 Resort takes long enough to entertain trekkers waiting for family members or friends to enjoy some time in the snow.

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Taking a lift to the top is recommended as the peak is 1,340 meters high. While other skiers speed along on the snow, you can walk along the slope to get to the bottom. Walking on this trail that is about five kilometers (3.1 miles) long takes about two hours.

Another popular place people head to for a jaunt in the snow is Deogusan Resort in Muju, North Jeolla. A ride on a lift will take you up to Seolcheon peak, which has an altitude of 1,525 meters. It takes about 20 minutes to walk up to the highest peak of Mount Deogusan, which has an altitude of 1,614 meters.

A colony of trees covered in snow will welcome you at the top.

Yongpyong Resort also offers a chance to meander to its “Sky Garden.” A ride in a lift will take you up to the top of Mount Balwang, which is 1,458 meters high.

If you are willing to accept a small challenge, Vivaldi Park has a sledding slope while Phoenix Park offers a chance to try snowshoeing - stomping across a snowfield in specially made shoes.


Keeping the kids busy

Konjiam Resort looks after children of parents in their 20s and 30s so that parents can enjoy spending hours on the slopes without worrying about their young ones.

The resort also provides lessons to teach children how to ski or snowboard so that they can soon enjoy winter sports with their parents. Because it is close to the Seoul metropolitan area, it operates a shuttle bus from Seoul and Bundang, Gyeonggi, which picks up kids and brings them back home.

Phoenix Park, Jisan Forest Resort in Icheon, Gyeonggi, and High1 Resort also operate similar day care programs on site. Instructors not only teach children how to ski but also play with them out in the snow.

Vivaldi Park even offers a service in English. Instructors from English-speaking countries join the program and teach children how to ski, in for parents who want to mix entertainment and education.

By Lee Sun-min [summerlee@joongang.co.kr]
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