South Korea Becomes a Winter Sports Destination
Most of us do not think of South Korea as the place for winter sports. Skiing in the country pales in comparison to the steep runs and powder snow in Japan. But this concept is changing as the country prepares to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. This is the first time the games will be held outside of Japan and the third time the Asian continent has served as host. For South Korea, it will be an opportunity to showcase its winter sports assets to an international community. South Korean officials are also looking forward to a long-term boost in tourism revenues that will extend beyond the 2018 games.
Pyeongchang is close to the northern border of South Korea, an area known for beautiful mountains and potato fields. Its proximity to the border with North Korea has made it one of the most undeveloped regions of the country, untouched even by South Koreans. The transition to winter Olympics host has not been easy. Pyeongchang has no name recognition in the global community, causing confusion not only for international travelers, but also a lack of enthusiasm among sponsors. Its pristine mountainside is protected forestland, requiring a delicate balance between the priorities of designing competitive ski runs and the need to protect the environment. The area is oriented to families, lacking in the nightlife that will be sought by athletes and the international Olympics spectator community.
Skiing in South Korea
South Korea opened its first ski resort in 1975 in Yongpyong. The mountains are not very steep, but the cold climate makes it perfect for man-made snow, keeping the slopes open for a long winter season. South Korea has made up for her deficiencies by running the best snow making machinery in the world, and investing in super-tech infrastructure, such as high-speed lifts, gondolas, and recently, magic carpets.
There is a lot of work to be done before opening-day, but from the South Korean perspective it seems to be worth the effort. This is an opportunity for them to give a stellar performance on the international stage, boost tourist economy, improve infrastructure and encourage new business development in the rural, northern corridor of the country.