After watching the world’s finest athletes, you may be inspired to get your own blood pumping. Visiting in February, skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and snowshoeing are some of the obvious ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Gangwon Province has eleven ski resorts, with four resorts located near the PyeongChang vicinity: Alpensia, YongPyong, Phoenix Park, and Welli Hilli.
Alpensia is 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.
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.
How to Get to the Ski or Hiking Action: SKIING -- Use Olympic venue transportation options (buses and trains) to get to Alpensia, YongPyong, or Phoenix Park. To get to Welli Hilli, take the KTX shuttle to Gangneung Bus Terminal, then ride the intercity bus to Dunnae (about an hour and 45-minute ride from Gangneung). Hail a taxi for the 5-minute drive to Welli Hilli resort. HIKING -- From any PyeongChang Olympic venue, take the KTX shuttle or Express inter-city bus to Jinbu. At Jinbu, take a city bus to Woljeongsa Temple stop or Sangwon Temple stop.