Frog Hopper and the Slopes of Korea.
Growing up all over the midwest in the USA I loved winter and outdoor winter activities. I love skating, skiing, sledding and a playful snowball fight or two. Whether or not I am skilled at either of these is debatable, but nonetheless I do enjoy some winter fun. So I was quite pleased that Koreans also enjoy the fun of a winter wonderland as well.
Once snow started to fall in our cozy, valley city of Deagu we were dying to find the closest slopes for another weekend getaway. Given that Korea is practically 80% mountains, we knew our search wouldn’t take long.
As you will notice most resorts in Korea are in the Pyeongchang region. This is because of its location to Seoul, weather conditions for snow fall, and the surrounding Taebaek Mountain range. Pyeongchang is actually the host city of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.
Top Ski Resorts in South Korea:
- Yongpyong Resort (largest ski/snowboarding resort in KOR)
- Location: Daegwallyeong-myeon,Pyeongchang (3hrs from Seoul)
- 31 different slopes for all levels
- High 1 Resort (highest altitude of 1,345 meters/ known for best snow)
- Location: Gohan-eup, Jeongseon-gun (5hrs North from Deagu!)
- 18 different slopes for all levels
- The Kangwonland Casino (on the resort) is the only casino in the country where Koreans can legally gamble.
- Phoenix Park (best for large groups/ instructors)
- Location: Bongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun (2hrs from Seoul)
- 17 different slopes for all levels
- Famous for being the set for the Korean drama ‘Winter Sonata’.
- Too cold? Enjoy the indoor water park, Blue Canyon.
*The ski season in KOR starts in November and ends in early April.
These three resorts are, in my opinion, the best in Korea. This is based on their quality of snow, crowdedness, quality of slopes and the off the slope entertainment. If neither one of these tickles your fancy you should head to Japan. Check out my blog on riding some sicky pow pow in Nagano.
So based on all that information, High 1 resort was my top pick. According to the website, it has the longest runs, the cost was reasonable and it seemed to be the least crowded. Not to mention it was the easiest to travel to. So after some help from my co-teachers, Kevin, Joe and 5 of my girlfriends from Deagu hopped on a 5hr bus ride EARLY Saturday morning and venture north.
Upon arrival I was pleased to see the trend of couple matching was in full effect. Two lil love birds dressed head to toe in bright red and yellow snowboarding gear. Their coordination was on point. That’s when I noticed how hood or bamf every Korean was dressed. Based on my American understanding of things, skill level is represented or shown off through excessive, top of the line (expensive) gear. In the US, you can spot a beginner a mile away due to how they are dressed on the slopes. Based on that theory, Koreans were total badasses on the slopes. Especially the snowboarders.
This made the talented ones in the group more excited, and the green horns and I a little intimidated. I looked like my skill level… bright pink snow pants I found on a clearance rack, wool gloves
idiot, and a wool hat I bought back in high school. So, yes I was intimidated… no one wants to be the struggle fest on the hill. The last time I had skied was in college at Spirit Mountain in Duluth, MN…with many $5 pictures of beers. So my muscle memory was as foggy as my brains recollection of how to ski. Nonetheless, excitement was still pumping through my veins as we dropped our stuff off and changed in our hotel room.
Places to stay near High 1. Of course you can stay on the resort. However, if your an English teacher, like us, there are some cheaper options. You will want to look at staying in Gohan, a small mountain town that is about a 10min walk from the resort. We stayed at the GoodStay HighValley Hotel. It was fairly cheap and a modest stay. You are more then welcome to do what we did to make it even cheaper. We crammed 4 people into a two single-bed room, ya know, make it real nice and cozy like.
Also if you need to you can rent hats, gloves, snow pants, coats and neck warmers from the resort. Many of my friends had to do this and they got to pick some pretty awesome outfits.
Next was rentals. There are many options in town to rent gear from, but if you have a Deagu Bank card, rent from the resort! You can get 40% off your lift tickets and rentals.
It was finally time to hit the slopes. It was time to see all those legit looking Koreans in action. Time to see what High 1 has to offer.
We soon realized that those fancy, high-end outfits and boarding gear was all for show. I guess the term ‘walk the walk before talk (or dress) the talk’ doesn’t hold meaning in KOR. In this country it is fashion first, skills later. Or, maybe its more of a ‘fake it till you make it’, kinda approach? Either way they were the best looking starfish I have seen going down the slopes.
Upon our first lift up to the top we were pleasantly surprised to hear some awesome music playing down the slopes below us. Once we reached the top there was a lovely lodge to warm up and get coco if needed, and (of course) plenty of statues and monuments to make any snow bunny gitty for a good selfie or two. They have your romantic selfie station, a look out point for selfies, and a few resort mascots to pose next to. I have always loved Korea and its ability to create the perfect selfie montage anywhere!
Then it was time to hit the first run of the day. I learned quickly that it didn’t matter what run that was, it was packed. Weekends are always crowded, so if you can, try to avoid going then. The crowded slopes quickly turned into an intense, 3D version of Frog Hopper. Dodging bodies left and right I watched my friend Joe fly down the hill…just in time to see him smack into a few new snowboarders, who decided to randomly stop in the middle of the slope to sit and eat snow. The Koreans never saw him coming and he had no time to react. I could not keep myself together the rest of the way down remembering limbs, poles, boards and puffs of snow exploding into the cool air.
I soon learned that western mountain etiquette and Korean mountain etiquette are two different things. I am fine with all the beginners star-fishing it the whole way down. I can stand the crazy amount of people on the slopes at all times. I only get slope-rage when people stop randomly in the middle of the slope to sit and chat or take a selfie. That’s some next level Frog Hopper s*** I don’t have patience for. It’s common sense… unless you want to end up like the 3 Korean pile up with Joe, don’t clog up the slope for your selfie montage. Grr. As you can imagine this made me a little bit angry on my first few runs. Then I remembered, I am going skiing…. clear across the world, with some awesome people. Why stay angry?!
After spending the day on the slopes with great friends we enjoyed ourselves to the free outdoor hot tubs on the resort. Honestly, is there a better way to end a day on the hill then a nice hot bath?
That evening we enjoyed some awesome Jjampong soup (spice, noodles, seafood,vegetables, deliciousness) and had a few beers. So with tummies full, muscles relaxed and a few beers to take the edge off we all slept like babies.
Since our first day on the slopes was so wonderful…we ate, slept and did a repeat. Once our day was over we hopped off the slopes and right back onto the bus for a great 5hr nap/ride home.
Overall, I really enjoyed my experience skiing in Korea. Yes, the mountain etiquette is, well lacking, but the awesome food, great views, runs and facilities (hot tubing) all made up for it in the end. I would highly recommend hitting the slopes in Korea, if not for the love of winter activities, at least for the fun, cultural experience I am sure you will have.
- Lift tickets: All Day 42,000w with Deagu Bank card (org. 70,000w)
- Rentals: Ski set 16,800w(org.28,000w)/Board 22,400
- Food: 30,000w
- Lodging: 1 2Single-Bed Room 60,000w ..split 4 ways:) for 2 nights
- Transportation to High 1: 36,000w round trip