21 December 2012

Ski Weekend at YongPyong

The weekend before Christmas a big group of us white people decided to go skiing at YongPyong resort, the home of the 2018 Winter Olympics.  Let me just say I am terrified for the Olympic city to be built at this resort - we looked around a number of time while we were there and couldn't help but ask where and how are they going to accommodate all that the Olympics encompasses?  The people, the parking, the lodging, the actual athletes?  Very confusing indeed... but I guess that's why the Olympic city is exactly that, it's has nothing to do with the actual town or city it's built in!

Apart from those confusing concerns, we had a pretty great weekend.  Skiing in Korea leaves a lot to be desired.  Before we went on this trip, I heard from a number of people that YongPyong was "the best" skiing in Korea - and I suppose that could be true.  If it is, the skiing in Korea is terrible.  But we'll see, I guess.  I went with a big group of friends from work and a few people that just live around here/work at different hagwons, I think there were 10 or 11 of us in total?  We signed up for a group trip through Seoul Hiking Group, which is the same group of people that we went on the Seoraksan hiking trip with a few months back.  They're really cool people, the Korean guy (his name is Warren) that sets the trips up is really funny, and although the trips are usually pretty haphazardly organized, they're damn fun.  There were about 40 people on this particular trip, and it's funny to go from perfect strangers on Saturday morning to facebook friends with plans to go out for Mexican on Sunday afternoon.

We got up early on Saturday morning and walked to the bus station (which ended up being a task within itself... we had no idea where we were going, apparently).  Found the bus and hopped on for about a 2.5-3 hour ride to Pyeongchang, the county where YongPyong is located - I guess the mountain range there is called the Taebaek.  It's basically straight out East from Seoul and took a lot longer coming home in traffic than it did going there with very few cars on the road.  It's also far enough outside of Seoul that people don't make the trip there to ski as regularly as they do to the resorts around Seoul, so it was a bit less crowded.  Fun fact I also found on through Wikipedia searching - YongPyong is owned by a religious organization (The Unification Church).  What?!  Koreans are so weird.

We got the resort around noon or so on Saturday and by that time only had about 5 hours to ski.  Originally I was like, "what the heck, I paid 100.00 to ski for 5 hours?!" but once I saw the terrain and the actual options we had for skiing, I got over my initial disappointment pretty quickly.  The mountain was boring - the terrain was all the same, the only difference between a green and a double black run was the steepness.  Everything was groomed, and there was absolutely NO skiing off the groomed runs, they were 100% fenced off.  And I'm not talking like little fences or ropes, these were legitimate 6' tall fences.  So that was interesting.  We paid 5,000 won to take the gondola up to the higher lifts and see if they were any different, which they really weren't.  The view was pretty nice from up there, but nothing special as far as skiing goes.  Probably won't be returning back to YongPyong for another ski trip anytime soon... unless I get super desperate.
Me and Sara being super pretty on the gondola.

Our group! L-R: Dan, Sara, girl Alex, me, Charlie, boy Alex, McKenna, Nick, and Suzanne.  Suzanne lives in Suji but teaches at a different hagwon, McKenna is Alex's girlfriend and teaches at another Chungdahm branch in a neighboring city, girl Alex teaches at a Chungdahm in Seoul, and Nick teaches at a Chungdahm April (little kids) in Seoul as well.

Chairlift sistas.

This is probably like half of the people that went on the trip.  Girl Alex, me, Sara, and our new coworker Hannah are on the right.  Some chicks also dressed up in animal costumes to ski, which was pretty funny.

So we took the gondola up and tried out the runs up there.  Ate some food (churros and bad meat - delicious) in the lodge at the summit... I wish the views were better because my pictures are all terrible.  It was pretty bad visibility near the top so there wasn't much to see, but I stole some pictures from the YongPyong website so here they are:

So this is the view from the opposite side of the resort.  The big run in the middle is super boring and is also a double black... no words.  To the left (kinda impossible to see) is where most of the blue runs are.  The beginner terrain is the lower areas and to the lower right of the "double black" run.  Then off to the right out of the photo is the gondola and the other black runs.

The gondola goes for-ev-er.  This is part of the trip to the top.

And this is Dragon Peak, the summit of the gondola.  It was totally windy and snowy up here and we couldn't see a thing.

We could only ski til 5:00pm so we headed down the hill around 4:30 to catch the bus back to the pension (place we stay overnight).  Seoul Hiking Group sets up these trips totally, you don't have to do a SINGLE thing except pay and get to the bus, so you really never know where you'll end up sleeping or going after whatever activity you signed up for.  So the bus ride was about 15 minutes from the ski hill, down these weird empty roads with a few restaurants and buildings that looked like they hadn't been used in years, around a big windy corner across a bridge and finally... to a donkey ranch.  Yes, a donkey ranch.  I momentarily forgot that the place we were staying was right in front of this said 'ranch' and was very confused by the sign that read "WELCOME DONKEY!" in bed colorful letters.  So we settled into this place for the night, cooked some dinner while a few people went back and night skied (ermm, no thanks).  40 of us shared about 6 rooms in 3 separate locations in 1 buildings and were up all hours of the night.  I don't think anybody got more than a few hours of sleep.

Sarah, Hannah and I found this cute little dog wandering around outside.  I don't think he was homeless but he was pretty mangy.  Cute, nonetheless.  I named him Cheeto.
Welcome, Donkey(s)!

Sunday morning some insane people went skiing AGAIN - you literally could not have paid me all the money in the world to do that again the next day - and we finally headed out around noon or so.  Stopped for some lunch in the "town" where our donkey villa was located, had a big bowl of boring kimchi jiggae (hot spicy kimchi soup), and it was back to Seoul!

Overall I had a great time.  Seoul Hiking Group is super fun and the people that go on these trips are outrageous.  Met some cool people, enjoyed my friends as always, and came back completely exhausted.  Probably not going to ski at YongPyong again, or maybe anywhere if it's that pathetic, but if I do expect another long winded update about how boring their slopes are.  Geeeeez, Debbie Downer.

Last thing: as I type this it's 1:00am on Friday the 21st of December, so the Mayans were incorrect and the world has not ended.  You're welcome, in advance.

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