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Eastern Slopes: Skiing & Boarding in Asia

December 2016

Fancy testing yourself on Olympic terrain, and venturing further afield than your usual Euro ski destinations? Then what better place than the 2018 Winter Olympic Games host city Pyeongchang in South Korea.

Asia is more known for tourism in architecture and their differing culture to the western world but is becoming a new skiing hub. Japan hosted the Winter Olympics in 1972 and 1998 and now helped by the awarding of the 2018 Winter Olympics it is starting to put Asia on the map in terms of winter sports, with ski resorts in 19 different Asian countries.

skiinginasia1 - Pyeongchang, Alpensia Resort 

With the Games just around the corner the majority of construction is now completed. Host resort for the event is Alpensia, offering hotels and world class facilities ready for use by the general public. Alpensia itself has six slopes for skiing and snowboarding, with runs up to 1.4 km (0.87 mi) long, for beginners and advanced skiers alike, and an area reserved for snowboarders. The resort is open all year round and the bottom of the slope goes through a beautiful transformation in the off-season turning into a wild flower garden. While Alpensia forms the Olympic park and is well worth a visit, if you want to go free skiing and get knee deep in fresh powder then all you need do is hop over to Yong Pyong, another world class ski resort with 28 slopes.

skiinginasia2 Yong Pyong Ski Resort, image of Slope Base

Europe still dominates the skiing market in volume of visitors per year; Saalbach Hinterglemm in Austria can take over 80,000 skiers at anyone time, compared to that of Yong Pyong which has a limit of 20,000. In fact all resorts in Asia are substantially quieter than European resorts which offers a breath of fresh air for people who are fed up of constant queuing at lifts and waiting for slopes to clear up before skiing down. So experience new terrain and fly down beautiful serene mountains, or carve your way from edge to edge the choice is yours.

A day ski pass in this region will set you back around 75,000 Korean Won, which to you and me is around £50; while ski hire for the day with skis, boots and poles is just £35, and similar to what you would expect to find in most hire shops in Europe. Apres Ski is a major part of the attraction to skiing in Europe, with the different traditions of countries predominantly meaning a drink or three will be consumed later on in the day. Although there is nothing stopping you from doing so in Asia, resort life is a bit different. Instead of the small wooden bars crammed with people listening to traditional music, you may have a bowling alley and an indoor gold simulator room. With modern hotel bars containing brand new pool tables and other bar games it is definitely a much more relaxed environment.

Now don’t go thinking that is all Asia has to offer, you won’t find anywhere in Europe where you can ski down a mountain and say hello to some wild monkeys at the same time. But that is exactly what awaits you in Japan, the ski city of Yamanouchi is a picture perfect ski resort known as Snow Monkey Town.

skiinginasia3 - The Snow Monkeys sit alongside the slopes

skiinginasia4 - The ski slopes of Yamanouchi

As with Europe the ski season in Japan goes from mid-December through to April and attracts a lot of Australians during their summer break. Yamanouchi offers amazing powder skiing with slopes targeting all levels of skier and snowboarder. During your days on the slopes of Kita Shiga Kogen you won’t find sausage and chips on the menu; home made Japanese food dominates the kitchen and traditional Suba (noodles) is a popular dish. 

Yamanouchi is three hours from capital Tokyo but the nearest airport is situated only an hour and a half away in Matsumoto. As well as the fine slopestyle runs there are halfpipes and even a designated powder zone. The best time of year to go skiing in Japan is late January, however Japan can experience freak weather conditions which forces lifts to close on occasions but this is nothing different to what you may experience anywhere in the world. The 1,300 year old hot springs certainly offer something completely different to other skiing holidays; and mixed with the Japanese culture it makes for an incredible adventure.




Tom Norris
Media Writer

Tom is an avid skier and lover of travel.

He aims to combine his interests in sport and writing to carve out a long and distinguished career in sports journalism.

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