The excitement builds
Gazing up at the towering Alpensia Ski Jump, I can hear the roar of the crowd cheering on the athletes. Then, eerie silence as a lone jumper takes his place, crouched perilously above the gaping void below. The hush of the crowd is interrupted by a whooshing noise. He releases and swoops gracefully down the steep descent, taking flight and soaring into the air. The crowd erupts in applause as he clatters to the ground, avoids a wipeout and sweeps into the arena, grinning from ear to ear.
Of course, this is all my imagination conjuring up images. The only sounds on this day, in March 2017, are those of work men, building construction and chattering tourists. For just 4,000 won (£2.50), you can visit the observation deck of the 2018 Winter Olympics ski jump tower. High above the town of Alpensia, you can marvel at the panorama of ski fields, the bobsleigh and the terrifying jumps below. Even the baby jumps have me cowering in fear!
Welcoming all Winter Olympics sports fanatics
The ski jump is just one of the 2018 Winter Olympics venues in the small hamlet of Alpensia. Built in 2009, it is a purpose-built ski resort, reminiscent of Vail or Winter Park in Colorado. A quaint, pedestrian zone, with numerous restaurants, graces the base of the slopes and makes an ideal base for anyone who loves winter sports.
Alpensia Biathlon Centre
You can drink in views of the Alpensia Biathlon Centre from the road heading to the ski jump. Despite having taken many winter holidays, I’ve never seen a cross-country course before. I am awestruck by the loops and turns that weave their way through the circuit. It’s not the flat course I expect, with undulations to make your thighs burn.
Alpensia Sliding Centre
In the shadows of the tower, on the opposite ridge, is the Alpensia Sliding Centre, another venue that I’m sure to be watching in the 2018 Winter Olympics. A long, blue tunnel snakes back and forth across the hillside, as a metal cart tumbles down its glistening corridor. Even from the top of the ski jump, a few hundred metres away, I can hear the loud rattle of the carriage, as it hurtles perilously down the course.
As fate would have it, we arrive during a test event for the Olympics. We can request FREE tickets to watch the British Skeleton team compete in the final event of the World Championships. Unfortunately, the start time clashes with our bus back to the airport, and we sadly miss out on a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Yongpyong Alpine Centre
The last Olympic venue on our hit list, is the ski resort of Yongpyong, a short cab ride away from Alpensia. The alpine skiing competitions will take place here but will only use a fraction of the mountain (see Rainbow pistes on the top right of the trail map). Sports enthusiasts will still be able to combine skiing with spectator sporting events during the Winter Olympics.
Sadly the actual downhill slopes which will be used for the Olympics were closed during our visit so I cannot say I have skied them. Nevertheless, there is some stunning skiing on offer at this resort. You can find out more about what we thought of the skiing here and in other Korean resorts in this post.
Winter Olympics in PyeongChang
For sports fanatic, the buzz in Alpensia is electric. Teams from nations around the world converge to compete in Paraskiing events, bobsleigh and sled. We eat dinner alongside TV crews and athletes from the United States, Switzerland, Ukraine and many more countries. If this is how exciting it is now, with just a tiny fraction of rooms occupied, I can only begin to imagine the magical atmosphere which will grip this town come the Winter Olympics.
If you are a fan of the Olympics and would like to combine spectator sports with skiing, I highly recommend you start looking for flights on Skyscanner and start planning your trip to the 2018 Winter Olympics.