When you discover you’ve got an unexpected holiday at the beginning of February called “Lunar New Year,” and you realize it means five days in a row free of children shouting and the sound of pencils dropping to the classroom floor in a sporadic yet persistent pattern, you’re stoked. Really stoked. (I love my students, honestly. But the volumes they are capable of producing continue to astonish me daily.) The question is, what to do with the gift of a mini-break? And how to do it on the cheap?
I don’t remember who drummed up the idea of skiing first, but visions of slopes and chairlifts and sipping baileys on the chairlift formed a pleasant montage in my mind, and plans to make it happen took shape. Joe–who luckily loves to research stuff, create events, and find deals to make the events possible–sifted through the plethora of ski resorts and Hangul-only tour websites with the help of his Korean co-teachers and booked us, Bryan, and Dianna for a day at the Hi 1 Resort, a five-hour journey north of Busan. For 80,000 won each we secured a one-way bus ride, lift tickets (good from 8 am- 4:30 pm), skis, snowboards, and boots. Our friends Branden, Tabitha, and Elliot joined us, and at 2:40 am on a Wednesday morning, we boarded a bus headed for the mountains of Gangwon.
The early departure was worth it.
Hi 1 features three mountain peaks, with the highest plateauing at 1376 metres. The slopes are divided into six sections, each one named after a Greek God (Zeus, Hera, and Apollo all take you to the top). With 18 runs designated elementary, intermediate, or advanced, both the novice and the expert can find a trail that suits their skill level. I’ve skied less than ten times in my life, and while I can glide down a mid-level slope with only a few involuntarily squeals (okay, they might have been more like screams), the more advanced runs were definetely a touch beyond my abilities. In an attempt to keep up with Branden, Joe, and Elliot, one run saw my skis wedged into a fence, hip sockets burning, as I struggled for ten minutes to simply pivot left without hurling down the slope. (Note–beware of runs marked “expert only” and don’t listen to
your friend Branden anyone who tries to tell you “expert” is a loose term.
Still, the episode was nothing a rest on the chairlift couldn’t ease …
with a few key people who make me smile.
Five Tips for a Good Time at Hi 1:
1. Bring friends.
2. Bring a flask, fill it with Baileys, and share sips with your friends as the chairlift ascends above the trees.
3. If the two Korean breakfast options offered at the cafeteria aren’t appetizing, head to the on-site convenience store. (Ask any staff member where it’s at.) Ramyeon paired with a powdered latte and some hot water sorted me out until lunch. Go through the door at the back of the shop, turn right, and chill out at the table in the big empty room with the window view–a prime spot to sip spicy noodles and get stoked for the slopes.
4. For lunch, order a large pizza or two from the on-site pizza place –sweet eats for a mid-day refuel.
5. If you’re beyond beginner level but still apprehensive about intermediate runs, try the Hera 01 trail from the mountaintop. You may emit a squeal or two as your speed picks up, but it’s the second-least steep mid-skill option on the hill, and the adrenaline combined with the air whipping your cheeks is guaranteed to make your brain and your body feel alive.
Hi 1 Resort is in Jeongseon County, Gangwon province. Shuttles run there daily from Seoul and Busan. You can also take a train or bus to the nearby town of Gohan and transfer to a shuttle or grab a ten-minute cab from there.
Check out shuttle times and costs from Seoul here.
Book a package from Busan (and likely other places) here. There’s approximately ten pick-up spots in Busan. (Note–this site is in Korean.)
Our shuttle left Busan at 2:40 a.m and arrived around 7:45 am. Return shuttle was offered for approximately an extra 15,000 won, leaving Hi 1 around 5:30 or 6 pm. It’s possible you can take this the following day as well–double check when you book the package.
From Busan, an 80,000 won package (booked through the Korean link above) covers a one-way shuttle, lift ticket to 4:30 pm, and ski/snowboard rental. In general, the packages work out cheaper than paying for everything individually, so it’s worth it to dig around for deals.
Night Skiing: Offered from 6 pm-10 pm. You can pay the additional 25,000 won or so for night skiing once you get there.
Gear: Hi 1 rents pants and coats for 20,000 won total. You can buy gloves (no renting) for 15,000 won. I opted to use the two pairs of wool ones I brought, which, if it’s not snowing, keep the hands dryish for at least half the day. Borrow a proper pair if you can and save your won for something more interesting.
Lockers: 1500 won for a medium-sized locker stores your stuff for the day. Note: you pay the 1500 won each time you open it up.
Rest your Weary Muscles:
Hi 1 offers a few pricey hotel and condo options, but if you’re on a budget, check into a motel in nearby Gohan once your ski day is done. (Regular shuttles will take you there from the resort.) Five of us slept on floor mats in a room for 10,000 won each, no advance booking required. There are a few motels scattered along the main road across from the train station.
Enjoy, and if you go, let me know!