It is midnight. The slopes are nonetheless open and the music’s nonetheless blaring.
That is snowboarding South Korean-style: quick, livid and stuffed with power.
In a 12 months’s time, Pyeongchang, a little-known mountain area in japanese South Korea, will turn out to be host to the world’s greatest winter sports activities stage: the Olympic Games.
South Korea has by no means been as a lot of a vacationer draw as neighboring China or Japan, and the precarious safety scenario — the Korean Peninsula stays in a technical state of conflict, with North Korea brandishing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles — hasn’t helped.
South Korea is mountainous however does not have the beautiful, jagged peaks of the Alps or volcanoes blanketed in 15 meters of snow like Hokkaido.
It does not have the rollicking, raucous mid-mountain huts of Austria the place skiers go round bottles of schnapps, or log-cabin lodges with crackling fires the place skiers sip glasses of vin chaud or gluehwein.
What South Korea lacks in custom it makes up for in effectivity: small, trendy resorts with quick lifts and good snowmaking.
And the area does have a ski tradition all its personal: soju, BBQ and loads of time soaking in spas often called jjimjilbang.
Tourists from Southeast Asia know this, and make their solution to South Korea’s Gangwon Province for a style of winter and to observe within the footsteps of a few of their favourite Korean stars.
It is Hokkaido-lite, with a splash of Okay-pop.
Able to hit the slopes?
This is find out how to ski like a neighborhood in Pyeongchang, South Korea (to not be confused with Pyongyang, North Korea, which has its personal ski resort).
Carry a flask of soju for these frigid 2 a.m. chairlift rides
Should you’re planning to ski at night time, think about arming your self with a flask of soju — Korea’s reply to schnapps — to maintain you heat.
This is why: the long run web site of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in japanese Gangwon Province lies about 200 kilometers from the South Korean capital, Seoul.
However till building is accomplished on the high-speed practice line, you may be touring by bus or automobile. With out site visitors, it is a 2.5-hour drive.
However with weekend site visitors, you would arrive effectively into the night time.
Maybe to accommodate Seoulites’ hours, resorts right here keep open late. Very late.
That offers diehard skiers and snowboarders the possibility to sneak a number of hours in after their lengthy drive — so long as they bundle up in opposition to midnight temperatures that dip perilously beneath freezing.
Dragon Peak on the prime of the gondola is the place you may get your pop cultural repair: The long-lasting lodge there served as a key setting for certainly one of South Korea’s most well-known TV dramas, “Winter Sonata.”
As you are snowboarding down, you’ll be able to pose for “Winter Sonata” selfies within the picture zones.
Blast off that snow and ice
South Koreans are meticulous about their gear.
If you get off the mountain, you’ll be able to cease exterior the lodge to blast off all of the snow and ice with the air weapons lined up exterior.
Down an overpriced latte, after which it is off to the jjimjilbang for a soak.
South Korea’s model of apres-ski: Jjimjilbang
South Koreans have taken Asia’s love of mineral baths to a different degree by including rooms the place you’ll be able to sit and, actually, “steam” your self.
Nothing is extra enjoyable after a snowy day on the slopes than warming up after which stretching the muscular tissues in a sizzling bathtub.
Saunas at Dragon Valley Resort at Yongpyong and the Vacation Inn at Alpensia are open to the general public.
Peak Island even has an space the place you’ll be able to play golf, and Ocean 700 has a pool that simulates ocean waves.
A monk’s feast
By this level, you are most likely ravenous.
Pyeongchang, frankly, doesn’t have the glitz or glamor of Aspen or Courchevel.
Regardless of the development going up for the Olympics, Pyeongchang stays a rustic city. Eating places shut early, and there isn’t any nightlife.
However there are hidden culinary surprises in Pyeongchang if you understand the place to look.
Gangwon Province is understood for its mountain greens, or sanchae, and is dotted with rustic eating places equivalent to Odae Sanchae Nara, the place the tables groan from the burden of dozens — sure, dozens — of small plates that includes roots and greens preserved and introduced in several methods.
Platters of potato pancakes spherical out the meal, all paired with the native makgeolli, or rice wine.
Mountain greens are a favourite of monks from close by Woljeongsa Temple.
Initially constructed within the 12 months 643, this Buddhist temple is breathtaking in winter and is a well-liked cease for meditative retreats.
Legend has it the temple has been rebuilt a number of instances, most not too long ago after South Korean troops torched it to smoke out North Korean rebels suspected of hiding inside through the 1950-53 Korean Struggle.
Odae Sanchae Nara; 159 Jingogae-ro, Ganpyeong-ri, Jinbu-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon Province; +82-33-334-9514; open day by day, eight:30 a.m. – eight p.m.
The place’s the meat?
Should you eat meat, do just like the locals: Choose up packets of Gangwon Province’s well-known hanwoo beef, up there in tenderness with Wagyu beef from Japan.
There are a number of “hanwoo cities” in Pyeongchang with self-service grills subsequent door.
Purchase your favourite cuts and for a number of thousand gained (a number of additional ), you’ll be able to grill it up proper there, with all of the kimchi and fixings your hungry coronary heart needs.
Or carry the meat again to the rental and eat the best way Koreans do: sitting cross-legged on the heated ground whereas taking part in drinking games with somaek, a mashup of the Korean phrases for beer and soju.
Comfort shops have every little thing you want for a Korean BBQ: disposable chopsticks, microwaveable rice and small containers of the spicy, earthy ssamjang sauce that offers barbecued beef the kick that makes it Korean. And naturally, beer and soju.
The one solution to end this Korean night time off correctly — if you have not already keeled over from all of the snow, steam and soju — is to sing.
Karaoke in non-public rooms referred to as noraebang is a typical solution to finish any night time out in South Korea. And with out a lot nightlife at Pyeongchang, that is the place the non-public occasion occurs.
After you’ve got let loose your internal Okay-pop star, you’ll be able to stumble again to your rental, lay out your mattress and let the heated ondol flooring lull you to sleep.
That is snowboarding, South Korean-style.