All the foreign brands were there — Burton, Anon, Oakley, Technine, Ride, Spy, Vokl — which seemed surprising for a country so keen on it’s own fashion identity. You would have thought at least one Korean start-up company making boards or jackets would have dawned itself. The closest thing I saw was a man dressed in a cow suit skiing next to a Pokemon dinosaur.
Muju Mountain is the only ski resort in the southern portion of South Korea, and the number of people there this past weekend was staggering. At one point, we spent 45 minutes in the lift line! Granted, I’ve only been to a few ski resorts back in the States, so I don’t have much of a base for comparison, but a lift line eight skiers wide and two hundred feet deep just seems absurd. Getting to Muju was incredibly easy. For 60,000 KRW, we got a lift ticket, equipment, clothing, and a tour bus to pick us up 5 minutes from our apartment. No wonder it was so crowded.
The trails them selves were well groomed, thoroughly fenced, and bright orange signs lit up the trail sides warning people to slow down. When getting onto the lift, you had to carry the snowboard as opposed to strapping-in with one foot. Given the maddening number of beginners on the mountain, I wasn’t surprised to see such a safety concern. However, of all the equipment available to rent, a helmet was not included. All of the snow was man-made, and it was interesting to see the network of drainage ditches revealed on trails without snow. Trenches topped with steel grates wound their way across the trails about every 50-100 feet. From a distance it looked like a tea field.
At the top of Muju Mountain, there is a lookout point, restaurant, and several different options for getting to the bottom. It takes about 20 minutes to get there, changing lifts halfway. The base features an enormous cafeteria, Popeye’s Chicken, Lotteria, and non-stop Korean Pop music. Had there been enough snow, I would have buried my head in it.