A Quest for Snow
All we wanted was to see snow. We had been in Seoul for four days, braved the butt-freezing cold, but still hadn’t seen one flake of snow. The receptionist at our hotel told us that it had been snowing steadily the week before we arrived, but for some reason, it had stopped. In the middle of January!
It seemed like I was always unlucky with snow. In February 2012, when I was in Beijing, the temperature dropped to -2 degrees Celsius, the cold was biting, the rivers were frozen, and kids were skating on them, but there was no snow.
In the same year, I went to New Zealand close to winter time. The days were getting shorter and the temperature was dropping fast. A friend and I drove to Mount Cook, and what we saw was only a teeny weeny bit of frost by the roadside, looking more like shaved ice than the powdery type that I imagined snow to be. A week after I left New Zealand, the whole country was covered in white.
So when I visited Seoul with my travel partner who had also never seen snow, we had high hopes. But four days in and still no luck.
Meanwhile, another friend of mine — who was in Tokyo at the time — posted pictures of herself being stuck at a train station because of heavy snow. And Tokyo was actually a lot warmer than Seoul! What a cruel joke.
Since we were flying home the next day, we figured the best solution we had was to find a ski resort close to Seoul. If we were not going to experience snowfall, we wanted to at least see snow on the ground — lots of it. We didn’t care anymore if it was real or artificial.
After some research on the internet, we discovered that there were quite a number of ski resorts in the vicinity of Seoul. In the end, we picked Konjiam Ski Resort.
Konjiam Ski Resort
Konjiam Ski Resort is located in the Gyeonggi Province, to the south of Seoul. It has 7.2 km of slopes that are suitable for skiing and snowboarding. The winter sports area is situated between the elevations of 177 m and 497 m.
- There were a few reasons why we chose Konjiam Ski Resort over the many others.
- It was the closest to the city. While all the other ski resorts required between 1.5 – 3 hours of journey time, Konjiam was only 45 minutes away from Seoul.
- Although there were one or two other resorts that were almost as near, Konjiam was the most accessible by public transports.
- The rate was cheaper, and they offered hourly tickets, unlike some other resorts, which only sold daily passes, or rigid morning/evening slots.
- According to reviews, it is one of the best in the area.
How to Get to Konjiam Ski Resort
We found an article by someone who had recently been there and followed his instructions on how to get to the place. There was supposedly a shuttle bus that would pick up passengers at a few stops in Seoul, so we went to the one that was the nearest to our hotel: Sadang.
However, the article we read didn’t publish the exact schedule, and we had mistakenly assumed that the bus would be frequent. At the bus stop, we hoped to see other people with ski gear, but there was none. We sat down anyway and looked out for the shuttle bus.
However, after waiting for over an hour in the freezing cold, there was still no bus. We were starting to lose hope. It was already past noon. Would it be too late now to look for other options? Was it really not meant to be?
After weighing our options, we decided that we’d still go to Konjiam Ski Resort by hook or by crook. They’d be open till the wee hours of the morning after all. So, we took the Seoul Metro’s Gyeonggang line to Gonjiam station to get the shuttle bus from there instead.
The bus stop was right outside Gonjiam station (in front of Kiss & Ride boarding place). Not long after we got there, the bus arrived. Phew! It was only 4 km to get from the station to the ski resort. We wished we had chosen this route from the very beginning.
*Bus schedule is subject to change without prior notification depending on operational circumstances.
(Visit Package Korea for instructions on how to get to Konjiam Ski Resort from Sadang, Jamsil, or Incheon Airport).
Konjiam Ski Resort Entrance Fees
Unfortunately, to enter the ski slope area was not as simple or as cheap as we thought. The hourly fee was only one part of the equation.
Gonjiam Me-Time Pass
Weekday (Adult / Child)
1 Hour: KRW 29,000 / KRW 22,000
2 Hours: KRW 48,000 / KRW 36,000
3 Hours: KRW 54,000 / KRW 41,000
4 Hours: KRW 58,000 / KRW 43,000
6 Hours: KRW 67,000 / KRW 47,000
Weekend (Adult / Child)
1 Hour: KRW 34,000 / KRW 25,000
2 Hours: KRW 58,000 / KRW 42,000
3 Hours: KRW 64,000 / KRW 47,000
4 Hours: KRW 68,000 / KRW 49,000
6 Hours: KRW 77,000 / KRW 53,000
In addition to that, there were also the rental fees for helmets, jackets, pants, knee pads, hip protectors, and of course, skis. You have to buy your own goggles and gloves.
Ski / Board Rental
6 Hours: KRW 30,000 (Adult) / KRW 25,000 (Child)
“Could we just go and have a walk on the ski slopes and come back?” we asked the man at the ticketing counter.
No, we couldn’t. And no, we couldn’t go on a joy ride on the ski lift either. They were very strict about the rules. Either you rent the complete ski gear or you bring your own. No gear, no go.
But, but… they didn’t understand. Skiing wasn’t our top priority. We came from the equator. We just wanted to walk on snow.
My partner didn’t want to ski. And I didn’t want to go alone. What if I fell down and couldn’t get up? It would be less embarrassing if I had someone with me — we could tumble down the slope together. If all else failed, we could just stand to one side and talk to each other.
Just as we were about to give up, we saw something that we didn’t notice before: right at the bottom of the pricing chart was something called “sledding”. It was only KRW 15,000 per person for five rides.
We had no idea what sledding was. What we did know was that we could enter the ski slope area for cheap, and without any of the ski gear nonsense. And we got to do it five times, whatever it was.
Snow Sled Fees
5 Times: KRW 15,000 (Adult) / KRW 12,000 (Child)
Half Day: KRW 20,000 (Adult) / KRW 15,000 (Child)
Sledding at Konjiam Ski Resort
So, we quickly bought the tickets and went up to the access gate. And there, right in front of us were the sloping hills all covered in white. It was a tremendous sight.
Skiers dotted the slopes like ants on mounds of sugar. The ski slopes were fenced in. Non-paying guests could watch or talk to the skiers from the other side of the fence, like in a prison.
It turned out that we didn’t get to go on the ski slopes after all. The sledding field was a small space located on one side of the ski slopes, but cordoned off from the skiing area. There was an underground walkway to lead us from the access gate to the field so that we wouldn’t disturb the skiers.
It was sort of like a playroom where parents left their smaller children to entertain themselves while they took the older ones to go skiing. Indeed, we were surrounded by preschoolers. The only other adults around were the crew members and parents accompanying their kids.
Each of us was given a wrist tag to be shown to the attendant at the entrance of the sledding field. The attendant would put a mark on the tag, to indicate the number of times we had entered. After the fifth entry, the tag would be removed.
The field had about 10 lanes. People queued up at the top of each lane to wait for their turns. You could either go on your own, or if you’re scaredy cats like us, you could hold on to your partner’s sled and go together.
It was terrifying at first. We were both scared of heights and on top of that, I was also scared of speed and the free-fall sensation (the first few inches of the slope were almost vertical!).
But as we were whizzing down the slope, the fear was gone, and we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves. The five rides were over very quickly.
We Finally Experienced Snowfall!
When our bus dropped us off earlier, we saw a few tiny flakes floating down from the sky that we would have easily missed had we not been staring heavenwards the whole time. But that was it.
Around us, there were lumps of leftover snow on the sidewalk, probably from the previous week. They were grayish and rapidly turning into sludge.
On the sledding field, the snow under our feet was coarse, like shaved ice. There was no snowfall.
We tried not to let our hopes up too high. After all, we had already got our wish granted — to walk on snow. And sledding proved to be a lot of fun, with or without snowfall.
It was only when the day grew dark that suddenly, thick flakes of snow started to fall down from the sky!
It was a weird feeling — like being in the rain, but not quite. The snowflakes were not as heavy or as wet. They stuck to my hair and my clothes like a really bad case of dandruff. But for the first time, I was not embarrassed about having white flakes on my shoulders.
It actually didn’t feel so cold out there, despite the snow.
As the wind picked up, bringing more and more of the white substance, and as we whizzed down the slope on our sleds, we felt the sensation of being in a blizzard (not that we knew what a real blizzard felt like).
It was the perfect ending to our winter holiday.
Best Time to Go to Ski Resorts in South Korea
The winter season in South Korea runs from late November until the beginning of April. Many ski resorts are open from early December till late March, but the peak time for skiing is in January and February.
That is when schools are on their winter break, which unfortunately means more crowd on the ski slopes. However, it’s also the coldest time of the year, with a greater chance of snowfall.
What to Pack
Most ski resorts provide these items for rental or purchase, but you can save a lot if you bring what you already have at home. It’s also cheaper if you rent them from other ski shops instead. If you’re booking a ski package with an agent, be sure to check if these are included.
- Skis or snowboards
- Ski boots
- Ski poles
- Waterproof ski jacket and pants
- Thick socks (plus an extra pair for after)
- Scarf or neck gaiter
- Beanie or warm hat
- Hot packs
- Thermal underwear
- Extra pair of clothes to change into after
- For those who have never tried skiing or snowboarding before, there are lessons available. They are usually an hour long per session and conducted in English.
- There are lockers available at the ski resort where you can keep your valuables, but do bring some money with you on the slopes in case you want to go to one of the eateries.
- The ski resorts can get very crowded during the peak season and weekends.
- The ski resorts in Korea are quite small and may not have the same vibe as the ones in Europe or the US. The slopes are mostly made of artificial snow, with some parts that can be icy. Therefore, if you are used to world-class ski slopes in Europe or the US, the ones in Korea might leave you disappointed.
Have you tried skiing/snowboarding/sledding in South Korea? What did you think about it? Share your experience in the comment section below.