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Should You Consider Skiing In Korea For Your Next Winter Holiday?

Skiing in Korea anyone?

When you think of your next ski holiday destination, Korea may not automatically spring to mind. However as the host for the 2018 Winter Olympics, perhaps you are missing a trick. What better way to combine some adrenaline-inducing activity with some cultural immersion or spectator sports at the Olympics?

Yongpyong ski resort
The views from Yongpyong gondola exit

Getting there

We used AVIOS to book Club World flights to Seoul with British Airways and started planning our ski trip in spring 2016. The Games get underway on the 9th February, so if you have not booked anything yet, use the box below to start planning.

Be warned, planning a ski trip to Korea is a challenge. Your Rough Guide or Lonely Planet does not have an exhaustive section on ski resorts in Korea, and most of the information on Korean websites is limited. For instance, I struggled to find basic information, such as details of typical snow fall, season schedules and lift pass/rental costs.

It was therefore with fingers crossed, and a huge leap of faith that we forged ahead with our trip, largely taking solace in the fact that a country about to host the Winter Olympics must have some decent skiing!

Ski slopes in Phoenix Park, PyeongChang
Phoenix Park ski slope – look how empty this baby is!!

Winter Olympics venues

The 2018 Winter Olympics will be spread across four locations in South Korea. These are Phoenix Park, the PyeongChang Mountain Cluster, Jeongseon Alpine Center and Gangneung Coastal Cluster. All the locations are located along highway 50 within four hours from Seoul .

2018 Winter Olympics locations
Winter Olympics sites 2018

Our Olympic trail

Over the course of ten days, we visited Phoenix Park, the Alpensia Sports Park, and Yongpyong Alpine Centre. You can see ALL (not just the ski destinations) the locations we visited on our trip on our Tripcipe!

South Korea itinerary
Our trip to South Korea

Phoenix park

At the foot of Mt. Taegi, Phoenix Park Ski Resort is a two hour bus journey from Seoul. You can take either the ski bus (18,000 won per person for a return fare) from the airport or a bus from DongSeoul to Jangpyong (11,600 per person single fare). From Jangpyong, you can hop on the free shuttle bus to the resort, which runs every few hours from the bus station. If your arrival does not coincide with the departure times, grab a cab for around 17,000 won.

Although we paid more than the ski bus costs to travel independently to the resort, we found that the timings of the ski bus were designed with day trippers or weekend visitors in mind. We did not fancy an 8am departure from Seoul!

2018 Winter Olympics mogul course
Phoenix Park Mogul Course

Ski Trails

The resort offers 21 trails for all levels including some longer runs for every ability.

Phoenix Park ski slopes
Phoenix Park trail map

There is enough to keep you entertained for a few days of skiing and the complex also has a few restaurants, shops and a bowling alley.

Positives for Phoenix Park

Cost

We paid just 42,000 for a full day of skiing (48,000 less a 6,000 refundable deposit) for two. This is fantastic value, but was discounted due to the closure of a number of slopes. You can find full lift pass and rental prices here.

Practicalities

I have always considered US resorts to be the pinnacle of user-friendly, but this resort beats any I’ve skied in the States. There are lockers conveniently located by all the ski lifts to limit your walking. You need to pay a small charge of 1,000 won for these, although we left a jacket in one all day without paying, with no issue.

If you stay in the Phoenix Park Hotel and Condos, each basement also has FREE lockers where you can leave skis and boots overnight. From there, you can access the ski base directly, buy your ski pass, hire your equipment and hop on the gondola. Be sure to request your discount coupon in reception to save on passes and rental.

Lock your skis away
Ski lockers in the Phoenix Park basement

Rental hire

The main hall at the base of the gondola is designed for speed. Entering from the ticket offices, you simply hand in your ticket for rental equipment and within minutes are waltzing off with skis and poles. There were no queues at all during our visit, although we did visit at the very end of the season.

Free water

As with resorts in the States, free water is the norm, allowing you to refill your bottles endlessly. This saves a fortune on what you can spend in Europe just keeping rehydrated.

Cleaning skis
Blasting guns to clean your skis

Downsides

As it was the end of the season, there were only a handful of runs open, but even if all were open, I would suggest a maximum of three full days to fully enjoy all the pistes.

The apres-ski is severely limited with a lack of pure drinking establishments. Restaurants are Korean cafes serving great, spicy food albeit with a limited menu. If you don’t like stew, you may struggle.

traditional Korean cuisine
Korean stews

Alpensia town

Moving on from Phoenix Park, we took a cab to Alpensia which cost 65,000 won for the 45 minute journey. Another option is to hop on the shuttle bus to Jangpyong and then take the bus to Hoengge which runs regularly throughout the day.

From there, it is a short cab drive to Alpensia but cab fares are not cheap in the mountains. I estimate that it may save around 30,000 won to travel this way but it is hard to say.

The purpose made town of Alpensia will conjure up images of Vail or Winter Park for those familiar with skiing in the Rockies. The twin hotels of the Intercontinental and Holiday Inn line the pedestrian plaza, with its myriad of restaurants and shops. These are more upscale than Phoenix Park, but with similar prices starting at around 7,000 won for a traditional Korean dish.

Alpensia town
Alpensia ski village

Ski slopes

There are only six ski slopes in Alpensia so I recommend splitting your time between here and Yongpyong. The proximity to the hotels, its prestigious status as a 2018 Winter Olympics venue and the picturesque town centre are enough of a draw, even if the ski slopes are closed, as it is just a few minutes’ drive to the neighbouring resort of Yongpyong.

Alpensia ski slopes
Alpensia trail map

Positives

The town is picturesque and has a great choice of restaurants for such a small resort. It’s a perfect destination for a weekend ski break.

The accommodation is also of a high quality at a reasonable price.  The rooms at the Intercontinental are spacious with comfy beds, balconies with great views and a large bathtub to soak aching thighs in at the end of a hard day of skiing.

Bathtub at the Intercontinental Alpensia
The huge soaking tub in our room at the Intercontinental
Alpensia Intercontinental
Comfy rooms at the Intercontinental Alpensia

Downsides

The skiing is seriously expensive with prices for lift tickets and rental to make your eyes water. Food and drink prices are very reasonable however with a beer in the Intercontinental costing just 5,500 (although for some strange reason, a coffee costs 12,000).

Alpensia skiing in Korea
Alpensia ski slopes from the ski jump tower

Yongpyong Alpine resort

Just five minutes by car from the Intercontinental is Yongpyong  ski resort, the daddy of Korean ski resorts, with the highest pistes and the greatest choice of runs. This comes with a hefty price tag of 218,000 (approx £170) for lift passes and ski rental for two which is vastly overpriced.

There is also no shuttle bus between Alpensia and Yongpyong meaning that you will need to take a vastly over-priced cab. Charging around 16,000 each way, these transfers add around £25 to the cost of your day out. You won’t be getting much change from £200 if you are paying for two.

Skiing in Yongpyong
Yongpyong ski resort – picture taken courtesy of Peter Kim

Beautiful skiing

That said, without a doubt the skiing is some of the prettiest I’ve done. There’s some fabulous long runs from the top of the gondola which snake around the mountain, hugging the cliff sides. Spectacular views entice you to stop frequently and reach for your camera. It’s no wonder they have had to line the entire piste with safety netting. There’s a lot to distract!

Ski slopes

There are over 20 pistes to suit your needs, whatever your standard of skiing. Twelve separate lifts whisk you efficiently up the mountainside and there’s a selection of cafes dotted across the mountain. There’s plenty for at least two days skiing and you may even meet your very own ‘Peter’, a very friendly Korean from Jeju who became our unofficial guide/photographer for part of our day on the mountain.

Yongpyong ski slopes
Yongpyong trail map

Positives

Shimmering blue mountain ranges melt into bright azure skies underneath glorious sunshine and the quality of the skiing is on a par with some of the smaller resorts in Europe and America.

Downsides

Discounts apply for multi day ski passes but there’s no denying, it’s a pricey destination.

Given, it was the end of the season when we visited, hardly any of the restaurants were open and those that were had a limited choice of food. It may be wise to come prepared with your own food, if you can find something to your taste in the local supermarkets.

We also couldn’t find free water on these slopes.

Locking your skis up
Convenient lockers for your skis

Should you ski in Korea?

The resorts are much smaller than those you may be accustomed to in Europe or stateside, and other than some steeper blacks, they are not technically demanding. They are however designed with functionality and convenience in mind. You will find few crowds, even fewer westerners (we saw no more than a handful over three days of skiing), friendly locals and tasty local cuisine. For this reason, I highly recommend a skiing trip to Korea.

More information for the Olympic Games

The Games run from 9th to 25th February followed by the Paralympics from 9th to 18th March. I am going to be glued to my TV between those dates.

To find out a little more about the mascots for the 2018 Winter Games, check out this cool little video. Sadly, we did not find any real life mascots with which to pose!

What do you think?

Have you ever skied somewhere off the beaten track? I love trying resorts in different places and have my eye on returning to Japan. I am also keen to ski in Iran and China. How about you? I’d love to know if you have skied in South Korea, or somewhere different I should be considering.

About Anne

Anne is the founder and editor of TravelTheGlobe4Less. If she isn't travelling, she is thinking of travelling or planning her next trip. She has visited over 80 countries on six continents and sampled everything from backpacking to bank bursting travel. Her mission is to help you enjoy more luxurious travel without the luxury price tag through the use of airline and hotel rewards and other money saving travel tips

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32 comments

  1. Such a detailed and helpful article you wrote! Thanks for the infos, planning a skiing trip to Korea is made much more easy after knowing all of this!

  2. It looks amazing, it’s so nice you had the chance to go ski there, would love it try it out! We were planning to get to the olympics but changed our travel plans. Phoenix park doesn’t seem too high, might not be the best for people that know their slopes. We’d say if you live in Asia, why not give it a go for sure but Japan might have some better options.

    • Gosh I totally agree. The skiing in Japan is definitely better (awesome powder there) but if you are like us, and like mixing skiing with culture, this is definitely a great destination. I would say skiing in SK was more logistically easy but the slopes in Japan definitely offer more variety and more challenge

  3. I don’t ski but I know a lot of people from my home country (Taiwan) go to Korea to ski! $42,000 for a full day of skiing for two is a great value compared to skiing in Canada! Maybe I’d consider taking a lesson there 😛

  4. I came across skiing in Korea a couple months back and I was totally taken aback! I hadn’t related to Korea as a winter destination, that too for skiing!
    Oh my! I just check the currency conversion. Just US$40 for whole day of skiing! That’s so much lesser than anywhere in Europe!

    • Yes I have just returned from skiing in Europe and was surprised by how expensive it has gotten. I have been skiing mainly in the States and that is super expensive so I am used to it there.

  5. YUKTI Agrawal

    When it comes to skiing, Korea never popped into my mind. But yes Korea is lovely and affordable destination for skiing. I loved the idea of dividing time between Alpensia and Yongpyong. I loved the stay with huge tub to soak after a long adventurous day.

  6. It’s definitely very off beat. I’ve never imagined Korea to be a skiing destination honestly. Not that I know how to ski but I didn’t think that there were good resorts in Korea for it. To be honest, I’ve heard such mixed reviews from tourists who’ve been to Korea that haven’t yet been able to make up my mind about whether I want to explore it yet or not. Thanks for your detailed information about skiing!

  7. Skiing in Korea is a great alternative especially for those who live in nearby countries who do not get snow. The price of the full day skiing there is a lot cheaper compared to the ski resort close us but the lift is already included in our price. In terms of food, I could eat a lot of Korean stew!

  8. Hi Had no idea skiing was even an option in Korea! I love skiing and love trying new resorts. I’m sure it is expensive, but it can’t be too much worse than other resorts in Utah (I would think). Might have to add this to our bucket list!

    • To be fair, it’s not as expensive as Jackson Hole, although it’s also not as dramatic or challenging. It’s a great place to combine culture, sightseeing and skiing

  9. Skiing is one of those things that’s been on my bucket list for ages but I’ve never worked up the nerve to do it. As an island girl the idea of spending all of that time out in the cold learning a whole new sport is intimidating. I think I might have to start off with something a little more basic but this looks like it was a fantastic experience, seeing as you got to ski in the destination that will be hosting the Winter Olympics!

    • Oh gosh I know what you mean. I started learning to ski in my 20s and absolutely hated it for the first few trips. Thankfully I am too stubborn to give up because I now love it but I spent a lot of time on my ass when I started.

  10. simply great..i loved the detailed write-up, will love to visit these places.photos are also awesome.

  11. You are right when you say it’s hard to think of Korea as a destination for a skiing vacation. Kudos to you for taking that leap of faith – now you can guide all of us who wish to go there! The winter Olympics looks like a perfect excuse to plan a vacation around that time. I loved the resorts too, especially those offering great views.

  12. Wow, what an incredibly detailed guide! Thank you! The skiing there looks awesome, and that’s coming from a Canadian gal who grew up skiing! 🙂

  13. Before her accident my daughter was being watched for the winter Olympics, so yes, for us we do think of Korea as a ski destination. Living in New Zealand, we have the best of the Southern Hemisphere, but it doesn’t compare to the North, so everywhere is an improvement. Sounds like an expensive, but epic ski holiday.

  14. Megan Jerrard

    You ended up with what sounds like a pretty epic ski vacation for not hvaing known too many details before hand – nice work taking the leap of faith! China is another destination which I recently found out had some great ski runs – similar situation though, there’s not a lot of exhaustive information in guide books or websites, so you have to largely depend on locals to help once you get there.

    Impressed with the variety of ski resorts and slopes, even if a few of them were a bit pricey 🙂

    • China is a destination I’ve been talking about skiing in for a while having now visited Japan and Korea but jason is not keen. I’m hoping to persuade him but also praying I don’t starve there!

  15. Yes, anytime. In fact I plan to spend winter and new year this year in South Korea. My first skiing trip!

  16. You were brave to plan a skiing trip without being able to find all the information you wanted before going! And how wonderful that you have now taken the time to write down what others will need to know. Was it a surprise to learn that a ski resort in Korea would have better amenities than one in the United States?!

    • It sure was. I thought the infrastructure might be nothing like what we were used to and so was very pleasantly surprised.

  17. I love skiing and have been thinking about skiing in Korea. What is the quality of the snow like? And do they offer lessons in English? I’ve just been skiing in Canada and would love to know how skiing in Korea compares to Canada.

    • The snow cover wasn’t great for us but only because it was season end. I think if you went in high season you would be fine. You can book lessons in English but need to book in advance. Via a vis canada, there’s not as many pistes or the same selection of bars and restaurants (the culture is more built around restaurants rather than drinking places) but it is culturally different and that is as much a drae for me.

  18. I seriously loved as your posted pictures and status updates about this because I had never thought about skiing in Korea! You always take such off the beaten path trips!!!

    • Ah bless you LeAnna. Yes we loved the fact that it was so different. One thing that also struck me is the helpfulness of people. Jason and I had some pretty good tumbles on one steep slope and our skis came off. Needless to say I had to clamber back up to get them and before I knew it two locals arrived to help me get my skis back on without tumbling down the hillside. It’s funny the things you remember after the event but I can’t recall anyone helping me up when I’ve skied in Canada and the USA (although I do love the skiing there)

  19. I dont know much about Korea but this Ski Resort does look very nice and has nothing to envy from other ones around the world. I love that there are lockets , that is so convenient!

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