- 02 February 2014
You'd think driving all over Korea to ride 14 ski resorts in 14 days would be a crazy enough thing to do. But hopping back into my trusty Jeep Cherokee and into the holiday freeway madness must be truly insane! That's exactly what we did, onward to the southern Korean alps and the ski resort of Muju Deogyusan, nestled in the alpine national park. About a 3 hour drive later saw me pull into the resort area and the usual mass of rental shops, Korean BBQ restaurants and holiday-makers.
Another master plan all-season resort, Muju has gone for the Austrian alpine village theme. At it's centre, the Tyrol Hotel chalet is surrounded by a replica village and town square, with restaurants, spas, game arcades, convenience stores and a pub/bar just a few of the attractions on offer. There's plenty to see and do, lots of accommodation to choose from and something for everyone, whether you are single and travelling with friends, families or adventurous seniors! And the long weekend saw Muju alive with Seollal celebrations, so I quickly checked in and stepped outside to check out all the action.
Coloured lights adorned the town and I had to pinch myself to remember I was in Korea. As I ventured back through the ski house to grab a mountain map, I noticed it was really busy. More night skiing. What is it with Koreans and night skiing? Seriously people, after 5pm mid season it's really bloody cold up the mountain. I have asked my Korean mates but they don't seem to be able to shed any more light on this night skiing phenomena. It's just what people do instead of going to the movies, or a bar, or a restaurant. Hang on, they do that after a session on the slopes! As my digs were close to the lift, I could hear the faint beep beep of the turnstiles and people passing through well into the late evening.
Next morning a fog rolled onto the mountain and visibility was restricted down to about 50m. The temperature rose to a very warm 10C and it almost felt like a humid summer night. Well, that might be a slight exaggeration in light of the 35C temperatures back home. The runs looked to still be in good condition despite the weather, and I was determined not to be discouraged. After all, I had travelled so far. First hurdle: the lift I wanted to take to the very top of the mountain to enjoy the famous Muju trail run was a snowboarder-free lift. This is the first time this has ever happened to me, ever, in the 5 or so countries I have boarded in. I was a little miffed to say the least and I didn't quite get it, particularly in a country where snowboarding dominates the numbers in snow sports.
So I took the next lift up end up around 3/4 of the way up the mountain, hooked into the trail run and back to the base. Pretty enough. I then ducked over to the snow park where I had a great time. There were some awesome tricks being smashed so I pulled up, got out my camera and sat back to enjoy. As I went to leave it became obvious that the warmer temperatures had taken a toll on the runs and at times it was more like wake boarding than snowboarding. People were peeling off layers and soaking in rays around the base area. Even at an altitude of 1600m, this southern region is subject to a much shorter season than it's northern cousins in the Gangwon-do region. I really loved this place and plan to come back, just maybe a little earlier in the year next time.
So with Resort No. 15 under my belt and a couple days to spare. What to do? I have my trusty Jeep Cherokee by my side, my body still in tact, my snowboard tuned and ready to go. And plenty of snow beckoning. So, I've decided to head back up towards the north east and see where I land. It's all playtime from here and I'm ready to play hard. Not sure where I will be tomorrow, but be sure to check in on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to find out. And if you're in the neighbourhood, don't forget to come say hi! Hi-ho Jeep Cherokee, away