Whether you’re an avid skier or snowboarder who loves traveling the world and exploring the best new slopes or a novice, itching to try on some boots and take off down the hill, there’s never been a better time to plan a skiing trip in South Korea.
Gearing up to play host to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, the country’s many well-established ski resorts have recently begun to capture the attention of the winter sports world; with up to 100 inches of snow a year and a long season stretching from November through to April, it’s perhaps no wonder. So, snatch the chance to hit some Olympic-quality runs before the world-class athletes arrive and suddenly South Korea is the coolest destination for a vacation on the slopes.
Any trip to South Korea will take you through capital city and transport hub, Seoul – a good excuse to explore a fascinating metropolis that is at once inescapably modern and steeped in history. Get a taste of Korean culture at the fabulous high tech museums and ornately-decorated palaces, and familiarize yourself with the cuisine in world-class restaurants. Stay in the center of all the action, kicking off your winter holiday at the Conrad with its year-round swimming pool or the Ritz Carlton where you can enjoy a luxurious Japanese sauna. Not only convenient for inbound international flights, the city is also within a relatively short driving distance of South Korea’s biggest and best ski resorts.
Most attention is, of course, focused on Yongpyong, home of the 2018 Olympics. This vast complex of 28 slopes makes up the country’s largest ski and snowboard park and is the must-go destination for snowsports in South Korea, perhaps even Asia at the moment. Whether you’re a total beginner or a black-run master, and whether you prefer to slide on one plank or two, there’s a piste for you. Stay at the resort’s remarkably well-equipped resort. Standing right on the slopes, it enjoys easy access to and gorgeous views of the surrounding mountains. Spend your days out carving up the pristine powder and head back at dusk to take full advantage of the endless apres-ski amenities. Within the resort are numerous restaurants, specializing in cuisines from all over the world, as well as plenty of bars and the opportunity to let your hair down with a little norebang – Korean karaoke. Any muscles aching from a day of slalom or snow-ploughing, meanwhile, will soon be eased with a relaxing massage in the spa. And, should you tire of perfecting your hairpin turns out on the snow, enjoy a little change of pace in the indoor swimming pool or out on the golf course, without ever having to leave the resort.
A little further afield, for the intrepid and adventurous, lie the hot springs at Asan. For a change of scene, not to mention the chance to soak up the benefits of the healing, sulphurous waters under clouds of steam hanging in the icy air, a jaunt to Asan’s Spavis is the perfect solution. If you’re traveling with kids, on the other hand, treat them to a day of adventure at Everland, a major theme park right next to the Yongpyong Resort. Spend the day whizzing downhill at the Snow Buster on speedy snow sleds and visit the exotic incumbents at the mini zoo.
For those looking to explore beyond the Olympic snow-theatre of Yongpyong, there are a number of ski resorts that also deserve a mention and your piste-loving attention. Furthest from Seoul, at a good four hours’ drive and at the highest altitude, is the aptly named High 1. Home to the fluffiest and purest snow in the country, it boasts 18 good, long mountain runs as well as a casino and traditional Korean restaurant. In North Jeolla province, around three hours from the capital, Muju Deogyusan Resort is enormous and boasts some interesting and varied slopes. Thanks to the slightly warmer climate of the region, however, they often rely on artificial snow. Phoenix Park is two hours from Seoul, has a great range of options for beginners and high quality instruction, as well as an indoor water park. As well, at just one hour from the city, Vivaldi Park is unsurprisingly busy with locals at weekends and popular with a younger crowd.
Wherever you get your frosty thrills and spills, round things off back in Seoul where you can shop for souvenirs in vast, gleaming malls or, if you still have the energy, treat the kids once again to a day of adventures at Lotte World, the largest indoor theme park on the planet. With countless rides and amusements, not to mention warm temperatures, it’s sure to be a hit with the whole family.
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