Snow Skiing in PyeongChang, South Korea
After watching the world’s finest athletes during the 2018 Winter Olympics, you may be inspired to get your own blood pumping. Skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and snowshoeing are some of the obvious ways to enjoy the great outdoors in PyeongChang. Gangwon Province has eleven ski resorts, with four all-season resorts located near the PyeongChang vicinity: Alpensia, YongPyong, Phoenix Park, and Welli Hilli.
Alpensia was PyeongChang’s official Winter Olympic Park. It has less than 3 miles of slopes, just 3 lifts, and no black diamond trails, but is a nice option for cross-country or beginner skiers. Hardcore downhill skiers and snowboarders will want to head over to YongPyong resort, which has over 20 miles of slopes, 15 lifts, a nice mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced trails, and the Dragon Park sports zone with jumps, rails, and tabletops. Phoenix Park is a little further west and about half the size of YongPyong Resort, but might be a less-crowded option. Like YongPyong, Phoenix Park has a variety of trail options to suit every skill level and an Extreme Park for leaps, jumps, and other gravity-defying tricks. Welli Hilli has just over 10 miles of trails and bills itself as a “snowboarder’s mecca”, with an international-class half pipe for budding amateurs to hone their skills. Who knows, maybe you’ll witness a 2022 gold medalist in the making! Adult day passes average about $75 and all resorts offer night skiing and equipment rental.
Hiking in PyeongChang, South Korea
Odaesan National Park
An alternative to snow sports is hiking and Gangwon has no shortage of exceptional trails in Odaesan National Park, less than an hour’s bus ride from PyeongChang. Hiking is part exercise, part religious endeavor for Koreans. Trails leading to small Buddhist temples are as natural to the experience as waterfalls, outcroppings, and vistas. Hiking trails are incredibly well-groomed, especially in the first few kilometers of a popular footpath where the “trail” may actually be paved, wood-chipped, or cobble stone. They gradually become more rugged the further you go, but handrails, stairs, and ropes are common in technically-challenging areas. Don’t let the engineering fool you, though. Korean trails are tough, often proceeding straight up instead of taking a more gradual switchback course.
There are four major hiking course options in Odaesan National Park, but the most practical for a winter hike is Birobang. Birobong is the highest peak in Odaesan, with the summit almost a mile above sea level. The four-mile trail starts at Sangwon Temple parking lot, winds its way past two more temples, and terminates at Birobong peak. In the winter, the first half of the trail is shoveled and temple paths will be cleared; depending on the snow and temperature, the summit climb may be slick. Plan about 3 hours to complete the course.
Seorak San National Park
If you head just a little further out Seorak Mountain in Seokcho is AMAZING! (about an hour from Pyeonchang by car). Seorak San (San 산 = Mountain) is the highest mountain in the Taebaek mountain range in North East Korea. The hike to Ulsan-bawi (울산바위) is a popular route, passing several temples and prayer places, as well as a few water falls.
We visited on a dreary day, with drizzle and clouds. As we neared the top of the peak, though, we witnessed an awe-inspiring duel of nature. We had been hiking in a fog, surrounded by a blanket of white. Within minutes, air warmed by the sun on the opposite side of the peak chased the clouds downward, revealing the distance peaks. The cold air retaliated, pushing the fog back up. We could feel the tug of war in the changing air temperature, the warmth retreating and then advancing; the distant view disappearing and then re-appearing. It was so cool!
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