For those of us nature junkies, climbing fiends, frisbee freaks, camping cats, and any other lovers of all things active beneath the big blue of Korea’s sky, winter can be, understandably, somewhat of a challenge! Whilst there is definitely a time and a place for epic, spiced rum fuelled movie marathons, and working on that piece of writing which no-one but the weirdest of psychotics would publish, it’s not going to be long before cabin fever takes a syphilitic hold of your mind and threatens to result in a mass ajuma massacre.
What to do? I for one had resigned myself to weeks of hard-drive organisation and fierce masturbation over physically ambiguous Japanese tentacle wrestlers. However, something less chaffing and more magical was on hand. Little did I know upon my arrival here, but Korea boasts a handful of ski-resorts which, though not being of Whistler or Alp Duez proportions, are definitely worthy of exploration!
“I’m not intending to denigrate anyone too much, I merely make the point to make clear the fact that some trips are obviously geared towards socialising and minbak madness than rocketing down the slopes like the ski demons we most certainly are.”
I was hoping to organise my own trip up to the slopes for a weekend but it is a proper mad hassle. An incredible amount goes in to booking all the various aspects of getting on to the slopes, not to mention finding affordable accommodation in a place less than an hour by bus from the lifts. We did manage to organise a one-day trip by ourselves but it involved more work than it was worth, a truly Pyrrhic Victory, as the twisted Philip K. Dick would say. Ending up with sub-par equipment, no bus banter, incredibly early start, and no group vibes, I would definitely not do this again. Indeed, it was only possible due to me contacting Enjoy Korea and asking if they could phone and organise most of it for me… something they did happily despite their own organisation of trips for us ski and board animals! I made the mistake of going on a trip with another organisation who shall, fortunately for them, remain unnamed. Never have I encountered such incompetent insanity. From rental mess-ups, to changes of accommodation on the day to some hovel miles away from the slopes, to a serious lack of communication or even dedication to GETTING ON THE SLOPES! I’ve heard similar stories from a few different trips, where organisers are more interested in making a quick buck and soaking in soju than making sure slope time was at a maximum. I’m not intending to denigrate anyone too much, I merely make the point to make clear the fact that some trips are obviously geared towards socialising and minbak madness than rocketing down the slopes like the ski demons we most certainly are. (We were even asked if we would mind spending the Sunday hiking instead of skiing………. Kafka had nothing on these cats!)
“The proximity of accommodation is an absolute must when it comes to skiing, what with the need to change equipment, have a nap, or stock up on whatever supplies are squirreled away in your rucksack, and Enjoy Korea triumphed in this!”
With Enjoy Korea we managed to find the perfect beatific blend between maximum slope time, banging bus journey, German like efficiency, and plenty night time boozing and boogying to unwind. Whilst we took part in several of their trips, the blueprint remained the same for all! This company’s onus is on the slopes, and it showed in every little detail. Picked up early on Saturday we were met by friendly faces before kicking back to smooth beats (or was it a movie?) as the bus whisked us to the snow. Accommodation? Truly could not have been better. Huge, modern condos right at the beginning of the lifts with access to jacuzzi and hot pools outside. With bewildering efficiency we were set up in our pre-delegated rooms, issued with any rentals we were in need of, and halfway up a chair lift before it had even registered that we had arrived.
Because of the smoothness of their planning we had the entire weekend to ski: A full day AND night on the Saturday, and an all day ski on the Sunday! The proximity of accommodation is an absolute must when it comes to skiing, what with the need to change equipment, have a nap, or stock up on whatever supplies are squirreled away in your rucksack, and Enjoy Korea triumphed in this! We could ski all the way to the entrance of our condo, pickup/ditch whatever needed to be picked up/ditched, then hop on the lift back to the top.
After a day on the slopes we all know a solid relaxation session is in order. We had free access to the jacuzzis attached to the condos which were perfect to get the party lubricated and ready for a night of polite sojus. The condos were all grouped together, but far enough apart so that those who want to kick back and get some shut eye for the Sunday were able to, whilst the aspiring alcoholics were able to get wild and wacky in other parts. This took on a different form each trip, from the wildly pointless game of beer-pong (gets in the way of this Scots drinking rhythm), to a properly put together party in the function room of some nearby plush hotel! The latter was a veritable carnival with DJs spinning sexy beats and a free and endless supply of the finest lager Korea has on offer (you’ve got to admit, it’s mildly better than Tennents, and sure beats a night on the Buckfast).
With deals on lift passes, night passes, and rentals, it’s definitely the best bet to book your trip through a company like Enjoy Korea. Having done it myself I know that it works out cheaper and better, besides obviating the need for any bureaucratic nonsense on your part.
Whilst I did not make it to all of the resorts on offer last year, I spent considerable time in both High-1 and Yongpyeong. Each had their own unique advantages so it was fun to alternate between the two. Whilst I am a self-confessed 2 planker I raged through the slopes with a group of knuckle dragging board bums so got the lowdown on both worlds. What slightly frustrated me about skiing in Korea was that there is zero off-piste (which didn’t stop us from hopping over a fence here and there…), the runs are not very long, and there are flocks of Korean board bunnies cluttering up the lower slopes as they engage themselves in a two-day festival of selfies and bum bruising.
“With a cheeky beer in the belly and krunky tunes in the ear, the slopes are transformed into an otherworldly playground where all the lifts are veritable psychopomps transporting skiers and boarders from one realm to the next.”
Having said that (Curb Your Enthusiasm, anyone?) Yongpyeong does boast a 5,600m run which does the job, and the other deficiencies force one to get creative and allow one to work on technique. For the more adventurous there are some killer moguls on black runs and even wee snow parks which, after signing your life away and donning a helmet, are open for snowboarders to get busy on. If you are used to skiing in Europe then know this: the black runs here are nowhere near as challenging, I would rate them as a blue back home, but there are some real nice curves and drops to work with. With the relatively small size of most of the slopes you will be spending time on lifts, but think of it as a rapid-firing succession of skiing haikus compared to an Homeric odyssey. Plenty of opportunity to mess about, bomb down to the bottom, or carve your way slowly around the snowboarders who seem to spend most of their time on their arses.
Whether you are beginner, intermediate, or pro, these resorts have something to offer. There are plenty of beginners slopes which are perfect to start out on. If you haven’t skied or boarded before then Korea is a great place to start. With incredibly cheap prices compared to anywhere else in the world you can get the basics down here and bust those moves out in the Alps another time. Instead of breaking the bank learning in an expensive European resort if you plan on getting properly involved it makes sense economically to do that whilst living in Korea. For the more proficient snow ninjas, the lack of any truly adventurous runs can be a bit of a bummer, but is balanced out by everything else these places have on offer.
My favourite aspect of the weekend was the night skiing. Enjoy Korea managed to secure lift passes at a discounted price for us, meaning several hours of slope time on floodlit, empty runs! With a cheeky beer in the belly and krunky tunes in the ear, the slopes are transformed into an otherworldly playground where all the lifts are veritable psychopomps transporting skiers and boarders from one realm to the next.
All in all, as Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys would say, ‘Deeeeeeeeeecent!’ Get involved and book a weekend of slope frolicking and good times through Enjoy Korea!
Written by Rory Woodroffe
For more pictures of Enjoy Korea’s ski trips check out the gallery.