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7 best ski and snowboard resorts in Korea
Where to find the widest bunny slopes, fun crowds and hardcore runs in this mountain country
Given that almost three-quarters of Korea is covered by mountains, it's no wonder thousands of tourists fly in every winter to hit the slopes.
Now that it's finally snowing, even in Seoul, here's where to find the best snowy runs in Korea.
For the moment, Yongpyong is the biggest ski and snowboard resort in Korea.
Unlike other resorts that tend to focus on certain levels and trends, Yongpyong is great for every kind of skier. Some 28 slopes -- spread across beginner, intermediate, advanced and expert levels -- offer terrific variety.
Among the various slopes, the Rainbow, Gold and Mega Green slopes are the most popular, and cover most of the three mountains overlooking the resort, which is about three hours' drive from Seoul.
Rainbow is the highest, at 1,210 meters, and it takes 20 minutes to get to the top where skiers can choose which course to take. With numerous intersections, this is without a doubt, one of the most fun slopes riders can experience in Korea. The Rainbow Paradise course is the longest course, at 5,600 meters.
If you are a beginner, however, the Mega Green (700 meters long) is the best choice.
As it is one of the widest slopes in Korea, beginners can worry less about crashing into other skiers. The slope is also relatively one of the easiest, as it is slanted at only 12 degrees.
What the resort makes up for skiing and snowboarding facilities and slopes, it lacks in other entertainment features. But there are great adventures to be had outside the resort, with the Daegywallyeong Sheep farm and also the Hanwoo (Korean beef) village nearby.
130, Yongsan-ri, Daegwallyeong-myon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do (용평리조트, 강원도 평창군 대관령면 용산리 130); 82 33 335 5757; www.yongpyong.co.kr
The best feature about the relatively new High1 Resort, which is abour four hours' drive from Seoul, is the snow.
With the highest altitude (1,345 meters) among Korean ski resorts, the resort accordingly features beautifully clean, natural, puffy snow. For beginners, this can work as an advantage as the natural softness protects you from getting seriously hurt.
Although the slopes are not as interesting or fun as those of Pheonix or Yongpyong, High1 has a different advantage.
All of the slopes at High 1 start from the top of the mountain; which means even the beginners and intermediates can enjoy fairly longer courses. Most recommended: The Victoria 1 (1,439 meters long), the Hera 2 (1,005 meters) and the Apollo (1,830 meters).
Experienced skiers and boarders who don’t want to go all the way down to the easier area can stop at the midway base called Valley Hub where they can make it back up to the highest point and choose from the 14 different slopes offered at the top.
Fun fact: Kangwonland Casino, located within the resort, is the only casino in the country where Koreans are allowed to play.
261, High1-gil, Jeongsun-kun, Gangwon-do (강원도 정선군 하이원길 261); +82 1588 7789; www.high1.com
A two-hour drive from Seoul, Pheonix Park offers the most extensive selection and ski/snowboard instruction for novice skiers; it also provides various practical courses for riders at any level.
Many Korean universities send students for group events and ski classes as the venue is famous for its impeccable handling of large groups, and because of the accessibility of restaurants, shops and rooms, even with massive crowds.
On the downside, skiers will not be able to enjoy a peaceful run on the slopes, especially as the courses as the lower grounds will be mostly jammed with beginners and instructors.
If you get sick of the crowds and snow, head to the Park’s impeccably clean and family-friendly indoor water park Blue Canyon for a change.
1095, Myeonon-ri, Bongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do (휘닉스 파크, 강원도 평창군 봉평면 면온리 1095); +82 1588 2828; www.phoenixpark.co.kr
Vivaldi Park is perhaps the most popular among the younger crowds as it lies about an hour by road from Seoul.
Although not outstandingly special, the slopes are in good shape and offer a variety of choices for any skier.
However, due to its proximity to Seoul and its young, fun clientele, it tends to get a little too crowded. If you are thinking of going during the weekends, be prepared to wait at least 30 minutes to get on the lifts.
Or if the waiting gets too frustrating, pay a visit to the adjacent Ocean World, one of the most famous water parks in Korea.
1290-14, Palbong-ri Hongcheon-gun Seo-myeon Gangwon-do (강원도 홍천군 서면 팔봉리 1290-14); +82 1588 4888; www.daemyungresort.com
The biggest strength of Konjiam Resort is that it only admits a certain number of skiers every day, capping visitor numbers at 7,000.
With this limit, the resort promises that the queues will not take more than 15 minutes.
Fittingly, the resort has become very popular for those who want a fast few hours of fun during weekends and also early in the morning.
The downside is the relatively low quality of the snow, as the resort relies on artificial snow due to the warmer temperature of its locale.
Another important point is the length of the slopes: the closer the resort is Seoul, the lower the mountains and thus, shorter slopes. Konjiam is a 90-minute drive from Seoul (read: shorter slopes).
540 Dowoong-ri, Docheok-myun, Gwangju City, Gyeonggi-do (경기도 광주시 도척면 도웅리 540); +82 3777 2100, www.konjiamresort.co.kr
Muju Deukyusan Resort
Along with Yongpyong, the Muju Deukyusan Resort is one of the biggest ski and snowboard resorts in the country, with long slopes for everyone, interesting layout and impressive facilities.
The downside? As it is located in the relatively warmer North Jeolla Province, the resort also relies on artificial snow, which means more ice and effort while riding. It's a three-hour drive from Seoul.
San 43-15, Simgok-ri, Seolcheon-myun, Muju-gun, South Jeolla province (전북 무주군 설천면 만선로 185), +82 63 322 9000; www.mujuresort.com
Alpensia may be scheduled as the main resort for athletes during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, but slope-wise, it may be more fun to go to Yongpyong, which is a five-minute ride away by bus.
After all, Alpensia may be housing the athletes, but the athletes themselves will be heading to Yongpyong and Phoenix to compete.
However, although the six slopes may not be as impressive for pros, Alpensia can be a haven for beginners and intermediates, who can practice and perfect their skills at this relatively quieter resort, then move on to the bigger and more challenging places nearby.
The resort and the overall ambiance is quite impressive, so it would be best to enjoy before the big names start arriving for the Olympics.
225-3 Yongsan-ri, Daekwallyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do (강원도 평창군 대관령면 용산리 225-3), +82 33 339 0000; www.ichotelsgroup.com
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