In Pyeongchang County, S. Korea, future host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, you will find the 28 slopes and 15 lifts of Yongpyong built into the Taebaek Mountains. Yongpyong is the biggest ski and snowboard resort in Korea, with a vertical of 750m, and 29km of slopes. It is very friendly toward beginner and intermediate level skiers and snowboarders, but there is plenty to keep anyone happy. Go there!
I took a shuttle bus on Saturday morning from Sinchon Station in Seoul, which left at 5:20am. To find the stop, from exit 7, walk around the corner 50m and wait in front of Hana Bank and a convenience store. There are many other pick up locations around Seoul. To reserve tickets (not always necessary, but good for peace of mind) or to get the exact location of other bus stops, this website is great. There were busses coming from Incheon as well. Read more on the Yongpyong website here.
I didn’t reserve and just made sure to be first in line to hop on. At 5:20am, there weren’t many people at the first stop. At the next stop, the driver checked everybody’s tickets and I gave him 17,000 won in cash. There were many people waiting to get on there and the bus filled up. The ride took about three hours. There were busses going back to Sinchon at 1pm, 3pm, and 5pm from the resort on Sunday, and I think this is the case every day. Tickets for the bus back can be reserved at the “Foreigner Office” in the Tower across from Angel In Us for 17,000 cash. The 3pm bus fills up fast, but the 5pm is easier to book.
Where to Stay
The Dragon Youth Hostel is not what it sounds like. I expected to be tossing and turning all night to the sound of teenagers getting wasted after a day of hardcore shredding. Instead, there were groups of all age ranges, from families to ajussis, walking through the spacious hallways and populating the many large rooms. Somewhere, hidden away, there were also private ondol rooms.
We arrived at 8:30am and waited until the desk opened at 9am to reserve our beds for 11,000 won a night, although it looks like you can do it on the site as well. You can’t check in until 2pm but they’ll hold your bags. I slept with two friends in a women’s dorm room, with our three guy friends in the men’s dorm next door. The beds each had their own curtain for privacy, which is something I’ve never seen in a hostel before and which I appreciated greatly. Beds on top are open to the ceiling and light, beds on the bottom are closed up little boxes. There were 16 beds in our room.
The room was quiet, with a few middle aged women, a young teenager, and a handful of empty beds. There are large bathrooms on each floor with showers, and on the first floor there’s a very big kitchen space with big tables, benches, and a communal refrigerator. Returning guests use storage areas and leave rice cookers and burners. It was more than I’d ever ask for out of a hostel, and only a five minute walk in your boots until you’re poised to start skiing.
You can rent any gear and clothing you need at the resort, but it’ll cost you a pretty penny. Check out prices here. There are many reasons why you’re better off renting from Jenny (who speaks English) at the nearby Ski Jump Shop. It is incredibly convenient, as they pick you up at the Tower in the resort, drive to you to the shop ten minutes away to try everything on, and then drive you back with all of your things. When you’re finished, they’ll come pick it all up. Plus, this way you can keep it for your whole trip, unlike at the resort where you return it at the end of every day. I rented boots, skis, poles and a helmet for two days and it came out to $30. That is less than one day would have cost at the resort. They have pants, jackets, and anything else you might need as well.
Phone number: 03-3335-3630
OR try sending a Kakao directly to Jenny at 010-2380-2992
If you’re going to be around all winter and plan on skiing for more than five days, getting a season pass is the way to go. It is 520,000 won and includes the shuttle ride. Otherwise, you can buy day passes based on time slots (prices here). The slopes are open from 8:30am to 2:30am. On the day we arrived, were ready with our rentals by about 10:30am, so we decided to go with the combined afternoon-evening pass which would allow us to ski from 12 noon until 10pm for 89,000 won. The next day we chose the morning pass from 8:30am to noon for 59,000 to ski those empty slopes and then catch a bus back.
The highlight for me was the 5.6km run Rainbow Paradise. It’s long by most standards, but it’s a slow, easy blue. It was perfect for honing my beginner level “french fry” skills. Plus, you get to take a leisurely, 30-minute, heated gondola ride up to the top (to save time, wait in the singles line). The Olympic alpine race will be held on Rainbow Slope, so that’s pretty cool too.
Gold Peak had a couple good runs for cruising – Gold Paradise and Gold Fantastic. Gold Paradise is an easy blue, and Gold fantastic starts out as an easy blue and ends a little steeper. When we were there in early January, it hadn’t snowed all winter, so things got icy and steep hills were rough sometimes. Gold Peak is away from the main area, so the runs and lifts were less crowded. Gold Valley was a long broad valley, slightly more difficult than the other gold runs. Overall the entire hill was very manageable and had a fun layout. Of course, there are steeper hills for anybody who wants more of a rush and a park for tricks. Note that the colors in the names of the hills and runs do not correspond to the difficulty levels.
If you want to avoid crowds and find that fresh pow pow, head out as soon as the lifts start running at 8:30am. Around 10am, it’ll start to get busier. Lifts close at 4:30pm for regrooming, so it’ll be nice and fresh if you get back out right at 6pm for night skiing.
For an idea of the slope conditions, check out the webcam on their site.
There are a lot of places to rest, eat, and shop around the slopes. The Tower is first from the parking lot. It has a ski shop, a large convenience store, a bad pizza and chicken place, a pretty bad Korean place called Noodles Tree, an Angel In Us, an ice cream place, a bingsu place, a norebang and another Korean restaurant downstairs.
Near the ticket office is “The Complex.” There, in Dragon Plaza, you can find a convenience store, A Twosome Place, a pricey Italian restaurant, a burger joint, a ramen place, and a cafeteria with Chinese and Korean food. I think of jajangbap as very hard to mess up, so there’s that. I would have thought doncas was the same way, but Noodles Tree proved me wrong. There are also food courts in the complex surrounding Dragon plaza and at the bottom of the Gold and Green slopes. They all have doncas, curry, the classics, for about 12,000 won a plate. There are also sets of stands outside the food courts including a kebab place that is probably the best food I had there, a Korean street food place, a coffee shop, and a giant waffle vendor. These places are more reasonably priced as well.
None of this food is likely to blow you away, and it’s all overpriced, so it isn’t a bad idea to bring food for at least some meals. However, it’s fun to ski down to “Green Snack” or “Gold Snack” for a kebab or some teokbokki to keep you going.
This is a great adventure for a weekend or a full season. An impressive resort and a fun Korean-style experience, plus, Olympic bragging rights. Have fun!
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By Evy Bround with help from Adventure Correspondent Molly Crickman.