Ok so it's 6 in the morning and i'm back from my first snowboarding trip in South Korea. I must say i went in with alot of doubt for this country as i've read multiple reviews that were just horrible. I am now here to confirm/debunk some of those rumors. First i'd like to say that i'll just do a general review of this entire countries snowboarding based on this one experience because this country is so small that it probably wouldn't be too far off to do such a generalization. Now keep in mind, as i go to different resorts i'll do seperate resort reviews and if need be make any changes to this one. And as this is my first review please bear with me as i might not make everything clear or give you that perfect picture description. ok so here goes (by the way, this might be a little long):
First i'll talk about how snowboard friendly this country is to foreigners as most of you on the boards are not korean nor can you speak the language. Quite frankly their english is very limited so if you need any questions answered i highly suggest doing research on their websites to have all your questions answered. Having said that their english versions of their website (if available) is also limited in content. just gives you basic options such as opening, closing, pricing, available instructional courses. Also most resorts are located at least an hour away from Seoul the capital of South Korea and getting transportation to and from these resorts are not the easiest thing to do. Some resorts do provide a shuttle bus free of charge to various locations of Seoul but will only make those accomodations with a reservation ie calling and asking for shuttle service. again as most of this is done in korean it would be difficult for the non korean speaker to get these reservations, however some resort websites offer online applications for requesting shuttle service. Having said that there is a stipulation to the shuttle bus. If you are the only one in that area who wants the shuttle service, they will not come out there just for you. so if you do plan on utilizing the shuttle bus, make sure you go with some friends. hm... i just thought of something, if your staying at a major hotel (expensive) then the concierge can take care of all this for you. however if your broke like me then i'd recommend looking up a hostel for foreigners and then the host would probably be able to assist you with things like this. but i digress.
next i'll tell you about how they run their resorts here. the hours of operation are different than what i'm used to in the US. they have multiple time blocks 5 hours a piece. and during special times of their season even have a 10pm-3am session. i went to such a session earlier today thus i'm reporting now at 6:23am korea time. resort wise they are set up similar to the US resorts kinda. you have a basic place to buy your lift tickets and pay for rental if needed. then you go to another area for rentals. i had my own board with me so i did not have to go through this process. as far as the english speaking ability of the workers at the booths, i can't comment on that as i used korean with them. but once you get the lift tickets and anything else you need you are ready to go stand in line for anyone of their lifts. some resorts have gondolas or cable cars that take you to the top. others have regular 4-6 seater lifts that go pretty fast. this is very important as most of these resorts are packed. especially on the weekends. and the closer the resort is to Seoul, generally the more people they will have. on weekends, don't be surprised to wait 15-30 mins in the line for the lift. another thing that is slightly different is that they have multiple "slow" zones as most if not all the trails converge towards the bottom. also they have some pretty decent natural terrain yet at the resort i went to, it was located at the convergence point so no jumping was allowed. now to touch on a myth. South Koreans snowboard/ski like they drive(very aggressively). semi true. they do board/ski aggressively some of them but as far as cutting you off or something asinine like that, those are done by beginners who have no idea what they are doing and don't mean to do it in the first place. if you are a decent snowboarder/skier than no problems avoiding that. Now just because of the sheer number of people on the slopes at the same time, it seems that the majority of the people hang out at the top or the bottom more so than the US and when they do go down the hill they really are no threat to you unless you get caught in a pack of them and there's no way out. then my friend you are done for. also it seems that beginners here have no hesitation to go to the blue square trails as they rely on falling leave and snowplow tactics to get them down. think of that old skiing game that came with your windows 98 except alot more boarders and newbies and no crazy snowmen that eat you. However at the black diamond, there is a sign in korean that says "no newbies allowed" which is great. i went down that hill twice with no one in front or behind me. Also as cold as it was here (-5 degrees celcius) there was relatively no ice on the black diamond which was great. also no moguls to be found. another neat thing about korean resorts is they have food stands everywhere. tons at the base of the mountain and tons at the top of the mountain. everything from burgers to local favorite roasted squid on a stick. something for everyone to enjoy. as far as snow conditions, i looked at mostly frozen granular with maybe an inch or 2 of pow in certain areas.
Now on to courtesy and etiquette.
the boarders/skiers are quite the conundrum. if they get in ur way or cause you to fall they will appoligize immediately and make sure your alright. however in line(if there is such a thing) first come first serve. you do have to put up some attempt to keep ur spot in the herd until you get into the individual lines. also they do not know how to keep their poles and boards away from yours. i had this one little girl keep stabbing her ski pole into my board. i swore to push her over if she did it one more time but my aunt stopped me so i just pushed her pole away with my hand. also in line, the boarders and skiers behind you will make your ur doing ur part of moving up by running into the rear of ur board and apply pressure until you push back. i used my scary "wut the f*ck do you think your doing" look to get that to stop. also stomping on their board preventing them from moving with the combination of the look works as well.
All in all i'd have to say i did enjoy my time snowboarding here in Korea and i look forward to more. However, i would not call this a snowboarding destination and would say that if your in the area and you want to get some boarding done then yes it would be worth it. but do not come here thinking this is going to be the new snowboarding mecca of Asia as that title belongs to Japan. Snowboarding is still growing here in South Korea and it will only get better but if your spoiled and used to great pow like in the midwest or the pacific northwest, then this isn't the place to plan a trip to for that. I'll report back when i have more. Thanks for taking the time to read this whole thing if you did. comments are more than welcomed.
aka "the revolver enforcer"