What it's like to ski and snowboard in South Korea's Bokwang Phoenix Park

For a completely different South Korean experience, get amongst it with the all-night skiers and snowboarders from Seoul at Bokwang Phoenix Park.

Someone skiing down a slope
  • Glenn Cullen
  • February 2020

The successful 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea brought skiing and snowboarding out of the cold and into the mainstream.

At 4am at Bokwang Phoenix Park, near the Taebaek Mountains, 2-3 hours north-east of Seoul, the lights are on but skiers and snowboarders aren’t at home. That’s because they’re on the slopes. It’s a surreal sight, blearily watching riders carve arcs down the floodlit Penguin course at a time when most sensible people are asleep. But it’s also very “South Korea”, where those with enough energy drive from Seoul after work on Friday, get their slide on until all hours, then return to the city. Compact and easy to navigate, Phoenix Park was the home of freestyle events at the 2018 Winter Olympics, so a world-class terrain park and half-pipe are standard. If you are not staying up all night, Phoenix Pyeongchang Hotel opens in new window has views out onto the runs of Bokwang Phoenix Park.

A woman wearing a ski mask
South Korea's Winter Olympics brought skiing into the mainstream.

In many ways the resort is representative of the kind of riding you’ll find in the region; with an emphasis on excellent grooming (off-piste skiing isn’t allowed in South Korea), a gondola and fast lifts and is suitable for budget-conscious beginners to intermediates. It’s a smallish drop of 400 metres but if you’re after more of a thigh burner, venture to Yongpyong Resort, 25 kilometres away. Here you’ll find some of the longest runs in the country (700-metre vertical), 14 cable lifts, 28 runs and a well-appointed base facility. You can stay at the ski-in, ski-out Dragon Valley Hotel and while food variety can be challenging in mountain towns, you can’t go wrong with Korean BBQ. Cook your meat, stuff it in lettuce with banchan (vegetables and pickles) and Korean chilli paste and you’re on your way.

For something completely different, try the High1 Resort opens in new window. It’s like Korea’s Lake Tahoe, where casinos meet the mountains. The hotels are high-end and you can hit the slopes and then try to hit a jackpot.

STAY

Phoenix Pyeongchang Hotel has views out onto the runs of Bokwang Phoenix Park opens in new window. In Yongpyong, try the ski-in, ski-out Dragon Valley Hotel (+82 33 330 7111).

FOOD TIP

Food variety can be challenging in mountain towns but you can’t go wrong with Korean BBQ. Cook your meat, stuff it in lettuce with banchan (vegetables and pickles) and Korean chilli paste and you’re on your way.