The Decembers I’m used to are filled with sunshine, sandy toes, and cocktails whilst overlooking beaches filled with sun-kissed bodies. However, this year was different. I’ve found myself entrenched in the Korean culture, and with that comes the icy cold winters, a white Christmas and of course, the opportunity to ski or snowboard at one of the many resorts in the northern part of the country. I headed to Oak Valley Ski Resort to test out their slopes in an attempt to improve my somewhat amateur skiing ability.
About Oak Valley Ski Resort
Oak Valley is one of the closest ski resorts to Seoul, being only 100km from the capital city. The short 90-min drive means it’s easily accessible and hence many people make their way to Oak Valley for a day trip.
The resort is foreigner friendly with all signage being in both Korean and English. Oak Valley is also popular for their ski and snowboard lessons and their instructors are able to communicate in English.
After spending a day skiing at the popular Vivaldi Ski Park, I was pleased to find that Oak Valley Ski Resort is a far less commercial and busy ski park. It has a relaxed atmosphere, with many families visiting the park to enjoy a day on the slopes.
However, it still lives up to the high standards of Korean ski resorts, with top-class facilities, ski courses and many restaurants around the resort. As with all Korean ski parks, don’t expect a nice cosy bar with a fire going in the corner. The restaurants are simple and offer a quick stop to carbo-load before hitting the slopes again.
The ski slopes
Oak Valley prides itself on being a premium ski park for the whole family. With wide slopes that have a gentle incline, it attracts many beginners who are eager to learn and improve their skiing.
3 ski lifts lead to 2 beginner, 5 intermediate, and 2 advanced courses, with the longest slope being 1.6km. Check out the details of the slopes at Oak Valley here.
Unfortunately, you won’t find many long ski slopes in Korea when compared to the likes of Europe. But being from South Africa where you’d be lucky to find snow in the winter, I was quite happy to have the chance to ski, no matter the length of the slopes.
The beginner slope at Oak Valley Ski Resort is wide and long, offering more space for beginners to practice. There was often a queue for the beginner ski lift but it was no longer than a 5-minute wait.
The intermediate slopes are, well, scary at first, but less crowded and offer a nice long run. The snow was icy in areas, but fluffy and soft in others. The queues for the intermediate/advanced ski lifts were very short, and I didn’t have to wait to grab a spot on one of them.
Ski equipment and gear rental
There are many ski shops en route to the ski park which offer equipment and clothing for rental at a reduced rate compared to renting these at the resort. A ski shop is also located at Oak Valley where you can purchase gloves, goggles, beanies and everything you need to ensure you stay warm and comfortable on the slopes. There are also lockers available which will cost you 1000 won for the day.
Costs to visit Oak Valley Ski Resort
When booking directly with Oak Valley Ski Resort, a full day lift pass will cost you 76 000 won ($70). After you have purchased this you will need to hire your clothing, 24 000 won ($22), and gear, 34 000 won ($30). A total of 134 000 won ($125) for a day in the snow. A tad bit expensive for my liking, and you’d still need to arrange your own transport from Seoul to Oak Valley return.
Enter Trazy (or any other tour group in Korea!). They offer great deals and ski packages for foreigners. This saves you the hassle of trying to find your way around an unfamiliar resort.
94 600 won ($86) will not only include your gear, clothing and lift pass, but also includes transport from Seoul to Oak Valley return. The buses leave from Myeongdong at 07:30 and you will arrive back in Seoul by 18:30.
Vivaldi Ski Park vs Oak Valley
Personally, I prefer Oak Valley. Did I mention that I don’t like crowds? And me skiing down a mountain filled with novice snowboarders and 4-year-olds learning to ski is a recipe for disaster. Oak Valley Ski Resort is small compared to the tourist hotspot of Vivaldi, yet offers great if not better slopes. However, I chose to visit Oak Valley on a Sunday which may be the reason for the uncrowded slopes.