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South Korea: Yongpyong skiing

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Yongpyong skiing | South Korea | Asia

[Visited: January 2017]

When the taxi driver drops me off on a busy street in night-time Seoul, I wonder where to find the bus to Yongpyong. It turns out to be a little more difficult than expected when I finally realize there is no official bus stop. Indeed, when a bus pulls up at the sidewalk, I see a sign with snowy mountains on the side, and the driver confirms that I am on the right bus. Some three hours later, he stops at a parking lot. Big signs announce Yongpyong to be the best ski resort in the world, and when I see the snow-covered mountains in the background, I am always more eager to get up there and enjoy the snow. Getting my equipment and a lift pass is a breeze, and soon enough, I am on the only gondola, on the way up to the highest summit of the Yongpyong area. It has been a couple of years since I last skied, so I start with the longest slope of the area, Rainbow Paradise, which meanders through the forest for 5600 m until I reach the base again. I then stick to the eastern part of Yongpyong to try some short, steeper slopes with names like Gold Fantastic and Gold Valley, where quite a few kid classes are going on. It is clear that South Korea has a dry winter: most of the snow is artificial; outside the slopes, there are only patches of snow here and there.

Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): The upper part of the Rainbow slopes

Time to take the gondola again, and now, I try out one of the expert slopes of the section of Yongpyong where the slalom will be held in the Winter Olympics of 2018. There are four runs, but I soon find out that two of them are closed, and one is being used for an international slalom competition. In fact, I am sharing the ski lift with teams from Japan, Russia, Slovenia, and other countries. Even though it is only one run, I now stick to this one for the rest of the day. The Rainbow III is the only longer run with some steep sections, and pretty good snow, even through at the base, there are some icy parts. I am getting the hang of it again, and get thrilled by the speed of racing down the mountain. For much of the time, the slopes are virtually empty. When there are others, it is evenly divided between snowboarders and skiers. Good thing is: there is never a queue at the lift, so I maximize my ski time.

Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): Skier coming down on the Rainbow III slope

The staff at the ski lift is very kind, saluting me every time I arrive, bowing, and wishing me a good ski until I come back a few minutes later and they repeat their wishes. Even though it is sunny, there is a haze in the sky, and the view is not perfect. I can see other, lower mountains, and vaguely see the valleys beyond, but it is all shrouded in a vague fog. When I later meet an American ski teacher, who knows the area very well, he tells me that just the day before, he could even see the sea towards the east of Yongpyong. We ski together, hitting the Rainbow III again and again, until it is closed. The only way to go is to take the long and easy Rainbow Paradise back to base again. It has been a great day of skiing, and even if it is getting dark, there still is a possibility of night skiing here at Yongpyong. Unfortunately, I have to catch the bus back to Seoul. I hope to be able to try the night skiing on a next visit.

Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): Middle section of the Gold Fantastic run
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): View of the Rainbow Fantastic slope from the gondola
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): Slalom competition on the Rainbow I slope
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): The Rainbow Paradise run
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): Top of the Gold Valley slope
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): The upper part of the Rainbow slopes
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): The lower part of the Gold Fantastic slope
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): Top of the Rainbow I run with competitors waiting for their turn
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): Morning at the Gold Valley run
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): Trees and fence under artificial snow halfway the Rainbow III run
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): The lower part of the Rainbow III run
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): Skier curving down the Rainbow III slope
Picture of Yongpyong skiing (South Korea): End of the day at Yongpyong

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