Skiing in Korea - Awesome Alpensia

Achievement unlocked as we finally managed to learn how to ski in Alpensia Ski Resort!

Our family of 2 adults and 2 critters (who are 9 years old this year) decided to pick up where we left off in Hakuba 2 years ago. We did not really succeed in learning back then as it was too early in the season (first week of December) so we had to go up pretty high up to learn. The instructor who had to teach 6 of us first-timers, spent more time picking us up than actually managing to get any instruction done ;P After doing much research and getting recommendations from friends, we decided to go to Alpensia as it was touted to be good for beginners with long gentle slopes and artificial snow.

On hindsight, it would have been better to do Alpensia and skiing first before the Seoul stay simply so that we could pack in more shopping! One thing about Korea that I discovered, was that comprehensive information about destinations and places in English are difficult to find. For example, in trying to get information about Alpensia Ski Resort, getting there, what's around there, etc, there is some sketchy information in the official Holiday Inn website and the KNTO website. But as to how to book the transportation, nobody really states upfront. Finally, after about two re-sent emailers, the Holiday Inn staff replied with all the necessary transportation and ski information. However, getting further information via follow-up email proved futile ;(. In the end, we decided to fork out about SGD400 to hire a van to transfer our two families to Alpensia, with a stop by the sheep farm, as we figured that would be the easiest way, with all our bags, shopping and the critters in tow. We booked through Grace Travel. For anyone interested to see the info the Holiday Inn staff sent on ski rates, transportation etc for December 2012, you can download from this link.

Bah I Say ...

We got out of Seoul around 9am and managed to hit the highway after half an hour of navigating through the heavy morning traffic. It was a pretty uneventful drive with one toilet stop (think the driver needed to go more than we did) and after that, miles of wintry brown countryside and patches of snow. The critters sang songs, played word games and decided to irritate us every 15 minutes or so by asking how much more time it would take to get there. It was with great relief when we reached the county of Pyeongchang where sheep and ski were, at about noon.

We had a lunch of bulgolgi, pork cutlet and ramyeon at a canteen in the area surrounding the sheep farm before heading out in search of the ovine. With no English signboards on the grounds, we decided it was best to just follow where everyone else was headed. 10 minutes later of trudging in the cold, uphill, might I add, we reached the pastures. There were no sheep in sight but we paid the entrance fees and proceeded towards a couple of sheds and lo and behold, there they were. The critters were super excited since they were born in the year of the goat / sheep and insisted that they were visiting their brethren. They each got a basket of green grass which inspired the sheep to shake off their winter lethargy and take more interest in us.


Sheep-feeding completed, we got back into the van and in about twenty minutes, reached the sprawling grounds of Alpensia. The driver was as awed as we were and kept pointing out how beautiful it was there. There are three properties in Alpensia and the Holiday Inn Suites is sandwiched between the Intercontinental and the Holiday Inn Resort. One thing to highlight was that we had a bit of a struggle trying to heft all our luggage up the steps to the lobby. Unless they think people only took day trips or travelled light, it would really have helped to have a slope of sorts to trundle the bags up.


Check-in was easy and before we arrived, I had requested for rooms near the ski slopes. Kudos to the staff for assigning us rooms in Block 203, above the Ski House. While the corridors seemed a bit dark and even smelt clinical, we were greeted by brightly furnished and contemporary rooms when we opened the doors.  The critters took to their ondol room after unrolling the mattresses and proceeded to roll about themselves, before dashing out onto the balcony for snow action. They also squealed happily at the sight of the bathtub and promptly deemed the hotel fit for revisiting. 

King Bedroom - there was even a pillow menu to choose from


Non-stick pan very good! 
While all that was going on, I found the kitchenette to be fully equipped. No toaster but it was easy to just make cheese toast in the non-stick pan, over the electric stove. A note about food supplies here:- we had read that there was only 1 convenience store in Alpensia so the day before, we bought everything from noodles to rice and canned food from Seoul. We soon discovered that while there was only 1 chain of convenience store, the GS25, we counted at least 4 outlets in the resort itself. They stocked everything that you could need for a decent breakfast, including eggs, bacon, sausages, cheese, bread, etc. They even had frozen ribs, chicken, dumplings and lots of instant noodles so anyone wanting to whip up meals in the room can happily get supplies there.

There were also plenty of restaurants on-site, all reasonably priced so we never went hungry the five nights we were there. The Korean BBQ (again!) was our most expensive meal but the beef platter, with a mixture of Hanwoo beef and others, was excellent so it definitely is worth a treat. Also a decadent indulgence was BBQ Chicken with the super deep fried chicken (yes, more!) to be washed down with draught beer. We also had our daily espresso drinks, waffles and free wifi at the Angel-in-us CafĂ© opposite the ski ticket booth. 


Our main objective for going to Alpensia was to learn to ski and I am really happy to report that 3 lessons later, us 4 adults could make it down the beginners’ slope without falling over ourselves and were also able to make turns. The kids were mainly on the Kids’ slope and while they struggled a bit with gear and instructions in the beginning, they did manage to also pick up the basics. So, achievement unlocked for all of us, yay!

I must also thank the long-suffering ski instructors! Mr Ahn, who took the adults for 2 days, explained the technicalities painstakingly for us so that we could attempt to process the physics behind all the moves. Mr Lee, who was stuck with the kids, must be commended for his extreme patience and good-naturedness. We tried to tip the instructors but they politely declined so we had lunch with them on one of the days instead to get to know Korea better. We learned that in order for a ski instructor to be gainfully employed throughout the year, he should also have a summer sport to teach ;).  So Mr Ahn did golf and Mr Lee taught swimming in the warmer months! For ski lessons, it is recommended to book at least a day in advance, especially if over the weekends when hordes of people come in.

The super patient Mr Lee & Mr Ahn with our critters! 

Winter stuff in SG is pretty pricey. So before we came, we bought our ski goggles from Amazon.com. We were therefore miffed to discover that winter and ski gear were sold relatively cheaply at the shops in Alpensia and looked more happening than anything that we wore on us. Being Singaporeans, we proceeded to buy more ski gloves, hats and goggles, reasoning that these would be for the next ski trip, whenever that may be.  

Spa-fect!! 
Aside from skiing, other activities that we did included some happy hours sledding where we discovered that it was not as easy as it looked to keep one's butt balanced perfectly in the sled. We also tried our hand at cheese-making at Cheese Story which was pretty educational. On a day of no-skiing, we visited Ocean700, the water theme-park where we spent almost the whole day, frolicking in the wave pool and getting water jet massages in the indoor and outdoor hotsprings. There was also the 4D ride and mirror maze, which unless you had really nothing to do, then I recommend going for. Us ladies also managed to get in a relaxing luxurious foot massage by young Korean boys (hehe) in the Intercontinental spa. 

If there was really anything to gripe about, perhaps it was the fact that the front desk staff, while polite, were not very well-versed in English. There was also no tour desk in both the Holiday Inn and the Intercontinental. We wanted to visit the surrounding areas such as Mount Seorak as we only skied in the mornings. However, nobody could give us recommendations, let alone instructions on how to get to places and back. In fact, even the ski instructors did not know how to get out to the surrounding areas so we figured it would be just safer to hang around the resort in the end. 

Alpensia will host the Winter Games in 2018 so I guess there is still time to iron out the chinks in the soft skills. In the meantime, the critters, who seemed to have been immune to the -10 degrees kind of weather, have decided that Alpensia is a place to be revisited so for anyone with kids looking for a place to learn to ski, at relatively affordable rates, this place is recommended.