Yongpyong and Alpensia are located in Pyeongchang County, in the province of Gangwon-do; Yongpyong is Korea’s oldest resort (built in 1974) and known for being the biggest & best all-round hill in Korea (along with High1), while Alpensia was originally conceived of specifically to enable a Korean Winter Olympics bid (by including various key pieces of Games infrastructure like the ski jump tower and bobsleigh track). This is finally about to come to fruition, and this pair of neighbouring resorts will be the focal point of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games, with Alpensia hosting the ski jumping, bobsleigh, and Nordic events, while Yongpyong hosts the slalom & giant slalom (the other downhill events will be at the purpose-built Jeongseon Alpine Centre, with the freestyle events at Phoenix Park)
Yongpyong: the hill
There’s no golf course or water park here; Yongpyong is a proper ski hill. While still fairly small by European or North American standards, Yongpyong is as big as it gets in Korea and has enough scope and variety for a satisfying day riding the groomers; they also have a decent park.
Yongpyong has one of the best snowfall records in Korea, so it isn’t reliant (as most Korean hills are) on snowmaking – that still isn’t saying much, but the Olympic events on the ‘Rainbow’ runs should have plenty of natural snow. Unfortunately, those runs won’t be available to regular punters in the 2017/18 season due to said events! (along with the gondola and the ‘Silver’ runs; with this in mind, see top 5 Korean hills to ski in the Olympic season)
Yongpyong is basically split into two areas, with a low altitude area of easy and intermediate pistes around the base and a higher area of more challenging terrain including some genuinely steep runs where the Olympic technical (slalom) events will take place. The two areas are connected by the gondola, with one long top-to-bottom run back down; I was expecting this run to be fairly tedious on a board, but actually the gradient is sufficient to keep decent speed up and it’s pretty good fun carving round the bends.
Once you’ve gone up the gondola, the upper area has one chairlift serving the handful of runs up there; the lower area has a total of 12 chairlifts. The resort’s vertical drop of 640m applies to the top-to-bottom run from the gondola; the lower area alone has 340m max vert (from the ‘Gold’ chair), while the upper area (‘Rainbow’ chair) runs have 460m vert – well short of the 800m required for the Olympic Downhill, hence the need to build Jeongseon Alpine Centre.
Yongpyong is good for:
The biggest & most varied resort in Korea (along with High1), with some nice steep stuff off the Rainbow chair at the top
Freestyle; the (medium size) park is one of the better ones in Korea.
All levels of rider.
40% discount on lift tickets if you first buy a gift card (see here), then use it to buy your tickets.
Yongpyong is not so good for:
By the standards of Korean ski resorts, Yongpyong is as good as it gets (along with High1) and doesn’t have any particular negatives. However, do be aware that during the Olympic season the best terrain at Yongpyong (the gondola, and the Silver & Rainbow areas) will be off-limits, making High1 the standout option if you’re skiing in Korea in 2017/18.
Alpensia is a completely separate ski resort operated by a different company, but the two are such close neighbours it would only take one short chairlift to link them. Alpensia is a tiny ski hill with just 3 chairlifts and 6 runs down 160m of vert. To be honest I’ve never even ridden there, because there’s no way I’d travel all that way to only hit Alpensia instead of Yongpyong! Seeing it from the base is enough to know I’d have it fully skied out in 20 minutes (including chairlift time), if that. Seems to me that Alpensia would certainly fail as a business if it were only about the ski slopes on offer – the place is more about being an all-round winter sports centre with specific infrastructure required for the Winter Olympics. It also has an attached golf course, and so operates as an upmarket year-round leisure resort.
Yongpyong & Alpensia lift tickets
Yongpyong follows the standard ticketing model in Korea, with the operating hours split into day & night by a 2-hour snow grooming break at 4:30pm; the slopes are open from 8:30am – 4:30pm, and 6:30pm – 2:30am. The daytime hours are subdivided into morning and afternoon, and the nighttime hours are subdivided into evening, night, and late night. You can get lift tickets for any of these individual slots, or for various combinations (details here) with prices ranging from 38,000 won for a late-night pass to 89,000 for afternoon & evening combined.
Yongpyong sells gift cards which can be used throughout the resort to buy food etc, and can also be used to buy lift tickets with a 40% discount; this means you can buy the gift card first, then use it to buy your pass, and have enough left on the card to buy food & coffee – who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch! (based on buying a half-day pass, and correct as of 2016/17 season)
Alpensia lift tickets follow the same basic pattern, but with the mountain closing at 10pm the time slots are simply morning, afternoon, and night, as shown here. Alpensia lift tickets are slightly cheaper than Yongpyong lift tickets, so if you’re just looking for somewhere to take lessons Alpensia is therefore the better choice. For those who can already ride, Yongpyong is far better value.
Yongpyong & Alpensia: accommodation
There are also a number of independent pension-style options in the surrounding area which you can search & book here
If you’re planning to stay in Seoul and hit Yongpyong / Alpensia from there, search Agoda for hotel deals in Seoul
Airbnb is also a good option in Korea – they have listings near Yongpyong/Alpensia (search for Daegwalnyeong-myeon, the local town) in addition to those in Seoul. If you haven’t used Airbnb before, you can get a 35-dollar discount off your first rental by signing up through Snow Guide Korea; simply click on this link and register!
Pyeongchang 2018 accommodation: if you’re visiting for the Olympics, you almost certainly won’t be able to score a room at Yongpyong or Alpensia (or any of the other resorts in the area); you could search for a room in Gangneung, but those will also be scarce due to Gangneung hosting the indoor events. Another city not too far away with good connections is Wonju, where you may be able to find something (search for rooms in Wonju); but the vast majority of Olympic visitors will have to stay in Seoul and visit the Olympic venues from there using the new Gangneung KTX bullet train.
How to get to Yongpyong & Alpensia
The most convenient way is to use the direct shuttle buses from Seoul; these are privately operated and require advance reservation, take 2.5 hours, and cost around 20,000 won.
Alternatively, you can take public buses from Seoul’s Nambu Terminal or Dong Seoul Terminal to the village of Hoenggye, and a local bus or taxi from there (3 hours plus, all in).
These options are all clearly explained on Yongpyong’s website here
The private shuttles are way more convenient, and well-worth the extra 5 dollars or so.
When the new Gangneung KTX line opens (on 22nd December 2017) it will serve Jinbu Station, about 90 minutes journey time from Seoul Station for 22,000 won. A free shuttle bus will run between the station and Yongpyong (schedule not yet confirmed – this page will be updated as & when these details become clear)
To get between Yongpyong and Alpensia there’s an hourly shuttle bus, as per here (this is only for late November 2017 to end January 2018, due to the Olympics – it’s unclear what the arrangement will be in future seasons). It isn’t far by taxi, but unless you’re lucky you’ll have to call one and can expect to pay at least 15,000 won as they have to drive up from town (and charge extra for it)
Any questions about Yongpyong or Alpensia? Leave a comment below!