Skiing and Snowboarding in Korea - What’s the deal?

by Jason -- December 2, 2011

With winter approaching my mind always wanders to the same thing – snowboarding. It’s one of my favorite activities and yet I haven’t been on a board in almost three years. This year I hope to change that and perhaps go on a couple ski holidays. We’ll be in Korea for most of the winter and it’s a place that’s well known for its skiing and snowboarding. In fact, the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held here. To help prepare me for snowboarding in Korea, I asked a few friends about their experiences skiing and snowboarding in Korea as compared to other places.

When telling my friend Chris about the post I was going to write, he told me: “Before I moved to Korea, one of my friends gave me one piece of advice, do not go skiing in Korea. And I was moving in the middle of the summer.”

While talking to others, I also heard that Koreans “ski like they drive” – also not a good sign. But it turns out many of the people I spoke with had plenty of good things to say about skiing in Korea. Here’s what they had to say -

1. What’s your favorite place to ski/snowboard in South Korea?

  • Pyeongchang. Home to the 2018 Winter Olympics. – Chris
  • High 1 Resort – Hanna
  • I would say Phoenix Park because of the distance, size of the resort, cost, and the friends that are in our snowboard club there. They also have some good restaurants and night life for nights we want to get out of the cabin. - Ryan
  • I have been to a few, I find YongPyong to be the place that I have enjoyed the most. They have a gondola and a few runs on the side of the mountain that tend not to be as crowded. Most of the resorts are relatively similar. - Kyle
  • The general rule of ski resorts in Korea is the further away from Seoul the better the snow/resort is. I haven’t been to them all but, in my opinion, Phoenix Park is the best. It’s a little over two hours away and it’s very foreigner friendly. - Drew

2. How would you compare the snow between here and other places you’ve ridden?

  • There was a freakishly huge dump just before we arrived in Pyeongchang. It was a great day. The snow was pretty similar in quantity/quality to an average skiing day in Australia. There were surprisingly few people on the slopes. I heard that there is usually a heap of people but the massive snow storm had scared a lot of people off. - Chris
  • The snow is comparable to Tahoe – Hanna
  • The snow here is almost entirely man made. Once it hits the middle of winter, you will get some fresh snow, but there is no powder like in the states. The snow is more compact and harder on impact. It’s not too bad though, depending on the time you go. - Ryan
  • The snow here is mostly manmade. They blow snow here at all resorts as soon as it is cold enough. If there is a storm that comes in, the snow is half-decent, but normally, there is not much powder and it is typically packed/raked manmade snow . - Kyle
  • To be completely honest the snow quality in Korea is pretty bad. It’s usually fake snow and depending on the weather it can get icy. I have skied in most of the mountains in Colorado and there is no real comparison. - Drew

3. Are there differences in etiquette between here and other places?

  • I didn’t really see a lot of interaction between people. Queuing for chair lifts was no different. – Chris
  • Etiquette towards other skiers, no different. It’s just much more packed at the nice resorts because they have really long slopes at all levels. The resorts that are close to Seoul don’t have very long beginner/intermediate slopes. – Hanna
  • As far as etiquette goes, most Koreans hold hands and don’t seem to care about how their snowboarding and skiing affects everyone else. They will cut right in front of you and stop, or block you. A lot of them don’t quite know their skill range and go down the higher skill level courses, and can’t handle it and will either nail, cut you off and make you fall, or just run into you. They will apologize but don’t seem the grasp the etiquette concept. - Ryan
  • There are huge differences in etiquette when snowboarding/skiing in Korea. First off, the slopes in Korea are more crowded than what most are used to in Europe/North America. With that said, you will feel as if you are skiing/snowboarding down a slope with landmines as bodies are strewn about all over the runs. People typically do not move to the side when they want to adjust their equipment or take a breather. Also, there is a higher number of beginners on the slopes who are learning and clogging up the runs. Most of the intermediate/advanced slopes feed into the beginner slopes, so you will find yourself dodging colorfully dressed bodies. You will also see an array of animal outfits. This is not uncommon in Korea. Groups of people dressed in cow outfits, dragons, bananas or some other off-color design arrangement will be gliding down the slopes, causing you to think twice if you are on a snowy mountain or in the agricultural plains of Middle America. One last note, snowboarders in Korea always carry their snowboards onto lifts. Instead of keeping it on one foot they dangerously hug the board to their body. - Kyle
  • No, the basic common courtesy that is shown is universal. - Drew

4. Anything else unique about skiing in Korea?

  • In typical Korean style, we all slept in the same room on a concrete floor. It was also very cheap. A 1 day lift pass was 30,000 Won. Board/boots/clothes were about 30,000 won. It was very convenient. We parked about 50 metres from the slopes. The shop where we rented our gear from dropped our gear off and picked it up when we were done. You can ski all night if you want to, though it did drop to -20C degrees when I was there. There were loud speakers blasting music over the slopes – Chris
  • The workers here are more attentive to accidents. They come to your care really quickly. – Hanna
  • Something unique about Korea; people really seem to love it, or make it appear that they love it. They all wear the brand new season’s clothes, buy this season’s equipment, and spend almost every weekend at the resort. That is one reason I got big into it during my first year- because it was a lot of fun and really challenged me to keep getting better. They also have some sweet obstacle courses with jumps, boxes, and rails that you can have a blast at all day if you want. The fact that you can put your head phones in, cruise down the mountain all day, shoot off jumps with friends, and then all meet up back at our cabin for Korean food, drinks, and good times makes it a blast. - Ryan
  • One thing that always sticks out to me is the clothing. Koreans wear the loudest and brightest clothing I have ever seen. - Drew


Like almost everything else in Korea, it sounds like Korea has its own spin on skiing & snowboarding. I’m excited to see it for my own eyes sometime in the next couple of months.

Thanks to Chris, Hanna, Ryan, Kyle & Drew for helping me out.

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