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Corporate skiing – a Korean ski adventure in High1

It might seem a bit of a strange time of year to do a post about skiing in Korea but rather amazingly the season only just ended here. There was even snow in Seoul last week.

High 1 skiing trip, Korea

When I first came to Korea I didn’t click that you could ski. I knew it got cold at winter but didn’t realise it got minus 20 and that most of NE Korea is a mess of mountains. This year Japan was definitely out of the question as I didn’t have a spare US$ million to pay for a trip to Nagano or Hokkaido so it meant I had little choice and Korea it was.

Now there are two ‘world class’ places to ski in Korea. The first and where the Winter Olympics are to be held in 2018 is PyeongChang with most of the skiing taking place in the resort of Youngpyong. I got lucky enough to go on two “work” weekend skiing trips there which introduced me to the Korean style of skiing: eat, ski, eat, ski, eat, drink, drink, drink, unconscious. Given that with windchill it can go below minus 20 there are very practical reasons for adopting this style of skiing. I actually really like Youngpyong and because the ski resort evolved organically it has some great Korean local food and the tastiest bulgoggi I have ever had.

High 1 skiing trip, Korea

However, the best snow is renouned to be at High 1 which in any other country would be a marijuana farm. It also has the only casino in Korea which locals are allowed to use which is a source of much excitement for Koreans. So accompanied by my two best friends from Shanghai who similarly didn’t have a spare US$ million to go skiing in Japan off we went on our Korean ski adventure.

Now one of the great things about Korea is that it is very practical. High 1 resort can be reached by bus and easily so. We started at 6:00am at Seoul’s Eastern bus terminal (Dong Seoul which is cutely dated) and got a bus straight there (to Sin Gohan and then a taxi up to the High 1 resort). Once there you can rent skis, snowboards, ski clothes, everything. We were actually on the slopes by 9:30/ 10:00am the same day. In the same vein there are copious lockers, changing rooms and even free hot springs to sup a beer after a long day’s ski/drinking.

High 1 skiing trip, Korea

Now I keep mentioning Japan and that is because the greatest ski holiday I have ever had is in Hakuba/ Nagano last year. Every day we were skiing in something like half a metre of fresh powder and spent our evenings consuming human sized bottles of sake and getting fat on homestyle Japanese cooking. Now from Youngpyong I knew Korea could compete on the food and the alcoholism but every Korea I had spoken to about the trip kept saying it had “the best snow in Korea“. Therefore, to put it mildly I was surprised when it snowed the entire trip and we were going down runs with fresh powder all day every day.

High 1 skiing trip, Korea

The resort itself is good for 2-3 days of skiing and I’ll go back there. However, the big problem was with its character. It was built on nothing out in the middle of nowhere. People simply didn’t live out in Gangwon province and no-one went there. So to overcome this they built a ski resort and a Casino. However, they are so new build and so planned that they are completely sterile. The architecture feels like a company town in Mid West American on a bad day. The food is a mixture of fast food outlets and lifeless chains. The Casino is probably the world’s most depressing place and makes Macao look classy and is 1/billionth of the size. If you are travelling to go to the Casino alone you will feel as though your soul has been hollowed out with a blunt spoon. See the picture above for the Casino at its most interesting.

High 1 skiing trip, Korea

And the food. Oh the food. KFC/ Dunkin Donuts was the highlight in resort. How I prayed for the character and old men and women of Youngpyeong. However, I can offer a little suggestion or tip which is that you can escape the resort if you are prepared for a little journey. You can get a bus or taxi to Sabuk and there is the normal array of Korean barbecue, juk and jiggae places. Which is a darn sight more exciting than the pre-processed crap at High 1 resort itself.

High 1 skiing trip, Korea

And if you haven’t been skiing in Korea can I just say two words: night skiing. This is not like in Europe where one slope is slightly open with some bad torches. This is entire mountains open, floodlit and beckoning you for one of the most evocative experiences of your life. Also worth going all that way for it.

 

12 Comments

  1. ain’t nuthin wrong with KFC, buddy.

  2. I’ve never had the Koreans down as skiiers – it sounds incredible (once you get out of the resort)

    • Yeah is definitely worth stumbling across and is going to keep me going through the minus 20 winters. My aim next year is to go every weekend and treat it is as ‘exercise’

  3. Y’know, i could probably put up with the KFC if it meant getting to do some of tht there night skiing… It sounds ace. Shame about the food, but good that you can get to some good stuff relatively easily. I like the Korean method of ski-drink-ski-drink too.

    • The very strange thing is you can’t buy alcohol up the mountain like in Europe. So you can’t do my favourite pastime of getting drunk and skiing down from the top. It is probably sensible though here given that people might go a bit…. crazy

  4. Raj

    Love the blog. Always interesting posts and I learn something new every time I visit you. Korea has always particularly enchanted me and I am seriously contemplating my first trip there (hopefully next year).

    Have you guys heard about the campaign Taste Success? The aim is to encourage younger people to explore an education and/or a career in the Food and Drink industry. We want to show everyone that the sector involves so much more than chefs and restaurants like for example scientists, manufacturers and technologists. Follow this link to get some more information: http://bit.ly/fdftastesuccess – The campaign also features a range of videos, the most popular is the Chilli Baby –> http://bit.ly/ChilliBaby. Please share and spread the word! :)

  5. The very strange thing is you can’t buy alcohol up the mountain like in Europe.

    • I’ve never had the Koreans down as skiiers – it sounds incredible (once you get out of the resort)

    • Yeah. I have to say it is terrible. Especially as you can get alcohol basically EVERYwhere else in Korea. I shall just carry it up next time.

    • @Superuser. It is definitely worth doing if you are in the country. This xmas I will hopefully be going pretty much every week! And if I have enough money, one trip to Japan…

  6. I think you’ve convinced me with the food alone – time to go skiing in Korea

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