The other weekend I had the opportunity to get out of the city for a day and hit the slopes of one of Korea's many mountains. Whether you are an avid skier or snowboarder, or just looking to try a new activity, I highly recommend trying this winter sport during your time teaching in Korea. Going for a day, or even a full weekend, to one of Korea's ski resorts is a great way to stay active, enjoy the outdoors, and be able to experience some of the best views Korea has to offer. In this blog I will not only write about my personal experience, but I will also give you insights into how to plan a trip, along with providing some information about a three of the mountains you can visit.
My day of skiing began bright and early when I met my girlfriend behind Beomgye station in Seoul at 6 AM. A few days prior to our trip we purchased the tickets online, and also sorted out a free shuttle to Vivaldi park. Unfortunately however we made a slight mistake. Our shuttle bus was at 6:30, but when a bus came at 6:20, we didn’t bat an eyelid. We simply asked the driver if the bus was headed to the ski resort, which he gave a resounding yes in response. So we got on the bus, and in a little over an hour, we had arrived...but at the wrong park! There was a slight kerfuffle with the driver as we tried to explain our situation. Luckily, they easily forgave us, and were a bit sympathetic. And so, we simply chose to stay at the current park. We first canceled our other tickets, and then got new ones for Phoenix Park, in Pyeongchon. It was a bit complicated, but we were finally on the slopes with our rented ski clothes, gear, and chair lift passes. If you don't have any ski clothes or equipment, don't worry as we found that there were plenty of renting sites in the area.
As you can see from the map above, Korea has plenty of resorts for skiing and snowboarding. The quality of the slopes is generally okay, but most of their snow is artificial. Also, the majority of the ski resorts have places to stay if you want to make a weekend of it. But obviously check before using travel sites like Expedia. The other thing to check is whether they have shuttle buses, when you have to book them, and what the cost of transportation is. Most of the bigger ski areas have their own shuttles, and they usually have a number of locations in the Seoul Area. Otherwise, you can always use google maps to find alternative transportation. Below I will provide you with the information for three mountains, that I have either skied at, or are known to be popular amongst avid skiers and snowboarders in Korea.
1. Phoenix Park
While Phoenix park isn’t the most well known park, it is the only one with which I have had direct experience with. One thing that was good about this park is that it wasn’t too crowded with people early in the day. From eight to noon, the park was fairly empty, and didn’t take too long to get up to the mountain due to short lines at the lift. However, there were a number of young kids getting lessons which caused some issues as they were everywhere, and more importantly they were falling everywhere. They fell in front of you, they fell behind you, and they didn’t really have the awareness of other people built in them yet. So, a lot of the time I just felt anxious that a kid was going to either dart in front of me, or crash into me. As I stated earlier, I hadn’t been skiing in a long time and didn’t feel confident about going on more advanced hills. And even when I went up higher, there were still a number of kids blocking my path, and due to the slope of the hill, and the snow turning into ice, it was fairly difficult to slow down. Luckily, I didn’t run into any kids, but it definitely didn’t make me feel better about skiing.
The issue with too many kids though, from what I have read online, says that it is fairly consistent across the board. I’m sure however if I went down more advanced trails that the amount of kids would have decreased. This park has one of the more diverse amount of trails and ski areas. However, the only issue is that a number of them are closed due to the upcoming Olympics in Peyongchang, but it is also true for most of the ski resorts in the area at this current time.
Another good thing about Phoenix park is that it has a site in English. So, finding out when the shuttle bus runs and scheduling your time slot shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out.
2. Vivaldi Park
Vivaldi is the most popular park in Korea. Due to its closeness to Seoul, and a free shuttle ride, Vivaldi is usually teeming with people. The overall cost to ski, is a bit higher than Phoenix park, but the shuttle ride is free, so it evens out. You just have to make sure to schedule the shuttle a day before. So, go to their site and do so! Also, this site is a lot easier to use for English speaking people. It is much less confusing than others.
The hills at Vivaldi park tend to be a bit more flat than Phoenix park, and due to the amount of people, waiting time can go about 30 minutes at ski lifts. The actual area looks nice though, and it has fairly positive reviews online from their customers.
3. Elysian Gangchon Park
Most reviews on Elysian Gangchon park have stated the same thing. The park is very close to Seoul, and is good for beginners. For advanced skiers and snowboarders though the park can be a bit stifling as there isn’t much variety available.
The park can be accessed through subway though, which is a game changer. For me personally, that would be one less thing to worry about. The station Baegyang-Ri is on the turquoise colored line or, by name, Gyeongchun line. It says that it takes around 2 hours from Seoul by subway. But to have the convenience of not worrying when the bus will leave, and being there at an exact time, and also not having to leave at an exact time, is definitely beneficial.
I hope these tips have been helpful for those wishing to plan a skiing or snowboarding adventure during your time in Korea.
Neil Frazer has been teaching with Chungdahm for a little over two years. He comes from a small town in Wisconsin, named Spooner and graduated from Olivet Nazarene University with a Bachelor's of Social Work. After traveling to Korea in college he quickly fell in love the culture, food, and quality of life that Korea has to offer and immediately knew he wanted to come back. He looks forward to sharing his experiences of living in Korea and working at the Pyeongchon branch, near Seoul.