- 24 April 2013
Why Go Skiing and Snowboarding in Korea?
Snow holidays in Korea are one of the best kept secrets, with most people not even knowing that the Korean Peninsular gets some great snow in the Northern Hemisphere winter.
With the upcoming 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in the Pyeongchang Region, no doubt this will increase international recognition and growth in the Korean ski fields. This site is a comprehensive guide to enjoy the pleasures of the Korean snow fields and also a guide to this great culturally rich country that can offer so much.
So does Korea get snow? Korea experiences extremely cold winters and in the north east of the country where the majority of the resorts are located, the temperature is consistently around the -2 degrees celsius mark. From December to March it's dry and cold with a high pressure system coming down from Siberia bringing with it some amazing powder which covers the mountainous region. Because of the consistent cold temperature, the resorts are able to maintain their snow coverage and the majority having extensive snow making equipment. The relatively low elevation (1500m) of the mountains, means the wide runs tend to be cut through picturesque pine forests that keep the wind at bay. Snow usually starts falling in late November and peak season for most South Korean resorts is mid-December to the end of February, although resorts and facilities are generally open from mid-November to end March / beginning of April, depending on conditions.
Korea has 17 ski resorts on the peninsular, with three distinct ski regions. Gangwon-do, Seoul Metro and Central Korea. The Pyeongchang region in the Gangwon-do province is pretty much where it all happens and will be the centrepiece of the 2018 winter Olympics. The region has the highest annual snowfall in the country and is a favourite destination for most locals. As an older gentleman from Seoul said in conversation while riding the gondola to Dragon Peak at Yongpyong, ‘everytime I come here, it takes my breath away with it’s beauty’.Many Seoul-ites enjoy regular weekend getaways and it is not unusual for locals to take the month of February off to enjoy the slopes. This becomes a busy time for the region’s resorts and the main town of Hoengyye. Around 3 hours north east of Seoul, Hoengyye, in the province of Gangwon Do, is the location of the opening ceremony for the 2018 winter Olympics and is a great place to start your Korean snow experience. The resorts of Yongpyong and Alpensia are located with 5 minutes’ drive of the town while Phoenix Park and Welli Hilli Park (Formerly Sungwoo resort) are a 30 minute drive back on the motorway towards Seoul.
In the Seoul Metro area there are numerous resorts located within a short commute from downtown Seoul, with most offering free shuttle services and a few having their own train stations. Some also offer on snow accommodation if required. They Seoul metro resorts all promote night skiing, so it is possible to be touring downtown Seoul during the day, then at night and hop on up to the ski resorts for the evening ski runs. Some resorts will even open to 4 the morning if there are enough skiers on the slopes.
The Central Korean Highlands is the home of three ski fields that service the central and southern areas of Korea. Muju Ski resort is the largest of the resorts which is done in an Austrian Chalet style theme and has some skier only slopes.
Winter comes to Korea from early December to late March, and January is the coldest month, with temperatures plunging to below -20 degrees celcius . Seoul is a little warmer but can also get regular sub-zero temperatures and flurries of snow. There is nothing more picturesque than seeing snow covering the roofs of a traditional Hanok house to set the Korean winter scene.
The majority of resorts have weather reporting on their websites and another great resource is the Korean Meteorological Administration website -which is also has a smartphone app for your travels!
As with any cold winter climate country, beware of black ice, as it can claim more injuries than the slopes.
Korea can get cold, really cold. Our recommendation is for a full kit of thermals, a polar fleece mid layer or equivalent and outer shell layer with at least 10,000mm rating. A good rated face mask or balaclava is also essential on a windy day to keep those Siberian winds at bay.
Korean accommodation all have heated floors which making everything nice and toasty after your day on the slopes. They are also great for drying out your ski clothes and boots after a big day on the slopes.
The current Korean trend is for big bright and colouful. Please note the outfits can be so bright they they will blind you. Also an excess of accessories is fairly standard. Big earphones, colourful bandanas, key chains, tall hoodies and fur lined jackets are common sight.
Korean Ski Resort cater for an overall expereince for everyone in the famliy and they want to keep everyone entertained and happy. Hence they very focussed on family attractions which include sledding slopes, indoor water parks, winter hiking tracks, ATV rides, food courts and some resorts even have have amusement arcades and bowling alleys.
Koreans love to sauna after skiing, so every resort have their own unique bath house and spa facilities for you to indulge in some pampered downtime. You will find a great selction of food at the resorts to cater for all tastes and budgets. From slick cafes, burger joints, noodles bars and western style buffet tables. Whilst there it is worth trying the local canteen Korean food (Cheap and tasty), Korean fried chicken and of course the all famous traditional Korean BBQ.
Convenience stores (Seven Eleven and GS25) are also located in the resorts and they stock all essential items, small selection of goceries, alchol and light meals.
Lift Tickets and Rentals
The cost of lift tickets in Korea compared to Australia, NZ, Canada and USA is vastly cheaper and there are a variety of different options to suit your needs. From morning, afternoon, all day and night sessions, the flexibility is great. If staying on snow, resorts may offer a discount on lift tickets and rental equipment of up to 20 to 30% of the rack rate. If you are intending to stay in one resort for a week, it worth actually pricing a season pass vs. daily lift tickets. A season pass can also offer great discouts in the resort on certain things such as food, waterpark tickets and special events.
You can also look at renting equipment through the ski shops in neighbouring villages, they too may offer similar discounts with a free drop off and pick up service. Though language can be a barrier as to closing a deal and also the standard of the equipment can sometime be questionable.
Skiing and Snowboarding in Korea is a unique expereince that gives a fantastic insight to everyday Korean life. A country of people that are very proud of their culture and are only too happy to share with you their love of everything bright, beautiful, goodtimes and having fun at their favorite ski resorts.