Written by Emily Creasman
This winter in Korea, as I was looking for something to do during Seollal (Korean Lunar New Years), I was given the opportunity to go to a ski resort through Adventure Korea. Going on ski trips is actually quite a popular activity among Korean families during the holiday, providing a chance to get away from home and enjoy the winter weather. Korea is also known for having some quite impressive ski resorts, particularly in the county of Pyongchang as it was there that the 2018 Winter Olympic games were held. For this trip I was taken to one of these resorts, Phoenix Park. Having never been to a ski resort in Korea before, I was curious as to what it’d be like – especially as someone with little to no experience skiing or snowboarding. As it turns out, I had an awesome time! So, without further ado, this is what it was like going to Phoenix Park with Adventure Korea for Seollal…
On day one, I was picked up at 6:00am by a bus from the Express Bus Terminal in Seoul. The bus made one more stop to pick up some others before we were on our way. Halfway to the resort, we stopped at a rest stop called Mumak to grab some snacks and stretch our legs before we were on the road again. As an American, I would like to add that Korean rest stops always impress me; they always have nice facilities and tons of snack stands! Snack food seems to be a major aspect of these places, with foods such as omuk (fish cake), corn dogs, walnut snacks, and coffee being served in abundance.
We arrived at the ski rental shop at about 9:30am to rent out our ski clothes– Adventure Korea had already covered getting our boots and ski/snowboarding equipment.
After that, it was only a few more minutes more before we arrived at the resort. I was glad to have gotten dropped off by the tour bus because the parking lots were absolutely packed with cars, so much so that people were parking on the side of the road outside the resort entrance for lack of room! The Adventure Korea staff helped me get my equipment and boots. They also gave me two wristbands for the day: one for the resort’s buffet and one for the ski lift.
To be honest, I was slightly nervous about eating at a buffet because of COVID, but there were resort staff at the buffet entrance who would monitor the flow of traffic and check everyone’s vaccination QR code/paper before they entered. There were also plastic dividers between each of the tables and everyone only took off their masks when eating, putting it back on when they went to get more food. All of this made me feel a bit safer going in.
The buffet food was pretty tasty, though they definitely had more options for breakfast and lunch than they did for dinner. The selection was a mix of Korean and western food. Options included: fried rice, japchae, seaweed and fish cake soups, kimchi and other banchan, toast, salad, and a noodle bar. They also had coffee, sodas, water, and tiny bungabong which were super cute! They had plenty of vegetarian and dairy-free foods to choose from! My plate consisted of omuk (fish cake) soup, egg fried rice and noodles, mushrooms, carrots, kimchi, bungabong, and ssiatjjorim (braised seeds).
After fueling up with breakfast, it was time to hit the slopes! Well…sorta. Adventure Korea provided free ski and snowboarding lessons on the first day, so I met with an instructor on the practice slope to learn how to snowboard! I had always appreciated snowboarding from a distance and regarded this trip as the perfect opportunity to try it out for myself. Me and a few others practiced together with the instructor for about an hour and a half before we were on our own.
I had heard that snowboarding would be harder to pick up compared to skiing. I find this to be true. I had also heard that I’d fall on my butt a lot when learning. This is also true. I fell. A lot. I could ride down the slope fine, but figuring out how to stop and how to steer was really hard for me. Nevertheless, I tried to accept the challenge and practiced for a few hours before it was time for check-in at the hotel.
Adventure Korea booked us at a small hotel called Greentel that was located about 15 minutes away from the resort by foot. The room was simple and tidy with a basic bathroom and heated floor bed. The floor heating was greatly appreciated after spending a full day in the snow. My room also happened to have a nice view of the ski slopes which was nice!
After putting my things away I headed back to the resort for dinner before taking the gondola lift up the mountain to get a good night view of the resort. After snapping some pics of the view and subsequently freezing my fingers off, I returned to the hotel to relax before bed.
A little tip: There’s usually a line of people waiting for the gondola lift, but if you’d like to go up just to sightsee and not to ski/snowboard, you can bypass the line! There was a designated line with a sign written in Korean for those only sightseeing. If you don’t see the sign, simply join the line without any ski/snowboard equipment and the employees should pull you out and move you up the line faster. This is especially useful for getting a good view of the sunset since the gondola ride closes for a break and reopens right during sunset.
The second day was rather straightforward. I woke up and headed to the resort to collect my new buffet and gondola passes before getting a bite to eat. The resort gave everyone at Adventure Korea open lockers to store our ski and snowboarding equipment in, so I headed there after breakfast. There were also locked lockers available for storing more valuable things that cost two 500 won coins per use. After grabbing my gear, I headed outside to practice snowboarding, making slight progress (aka I still fell, but fell a little less!). Afterwards, I roamed the resort to take pictures with my camera, hoping to catch some cool action shots.
Time sort of slipped away from me and before I knew it, it was 4pm! Famished, I decided to try out a book cafe called Sesujak located near the hotel that I had seen the previous day. The place was small but cutely and quaintly decorated with books, art pieces, and plants donning the walls. I ordered a bowl of udon and a hot lemon tea-perfect for combating the cold.
After my meal, I headed back to the resort and took the ski lift up to the top of the mountain to watch the sunset. The view was beautiful, with streaks of purple, orange, and blue crossing the sky and settling behind the mountains. Once the sun dipped below the horizon and the colors melded into the night sky, I started heading back to the hotel, stopping at a nearby convenience store for a little nighttime snack.
On the third day, Adventure Korea gave us a few different options of what to do: ski/snowboard some more, go to the resort’s waterpark, relax, or go for a snow hike. I opted for the snow hike, which I will talk more about in a separate post so be on the lookout for that!
On the last day, the day of Seollal, I got coffee at a coffee shop connected to the hotel before packing up my stuff. It ended up snowing that morning, which was a nice surprise, so I spent some time outside to enjoy the snow and take pictures! At 12 noon, everyone boarded the buses and Adventure Korea took us back to the stations they picked us up from.
Overall, the trip to Phoenix Park was incredibly exciting and I’m so glad to have gone! Snowboarding for Seollal was definitely not something I would have considered doing before, but it ended up being a really fun and unique experience! Pyeongchang is a great place that I highly recommend everyone visit at some point during the winter if visiting Korea for an extended time~
What other winter adventures and tours would you guys like to see? Let me know in the comments or on our social media! Also let us know if you have any questions about the trip! Happy New Years~
Location: 174 Taegi-ro, Bongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do
Hotel: 777 Mui-ri, Bongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang-gun, Gangwon-do