It’s been a while since last time, huh. We just returned from back to back, weekend snowboard excursions up north and I’ve got a bevy of photos to unload on this here wordpress. The internet is out at our house so I am typing this up in between classes and holing up for a little while after work. Excuse the brevity or grammatical mistakes. We spent the last two weekends up in Gangwon-do province, on the slopes of the High 1 ski resort, and I’ll try to toss out some reflections of that experience,including the ridiculous 1:30 am bus ride, beginner studded hills, Woinski’s shred quotient, and other weekend happenings.
Due to our inconvenient departure time, like I said 1:30 am, it was pretty much impossible to get any type of decent sleep. Thus we decided the best course of action was to sit at Moe’s and drink until we were in the right state to pass out on a crowded bus with no leg room. This plan was botched by the fact that the buses didn’t have a toilet and we weren’t going to fill up gatorade bottles with urine and get arrested for breaking some obscenity law. So instead we nervously nursed our beers, and snuck soju shots at the basement until hopping a last minute cab and boarding that mid-night, northbound hearse.
So, the only way to get to Kangwon land (that we know) is to catch one of these absurdly late at night, cramped, travel agency buses, which have no bathroom, and arrive two and a half hours before the slopes even open. Leaving one to sleep on the ski-lodge floor, and eat a 10,000 won bowl of rice porridge or hangover soup. There is no coffee hut open before 9 am, and the line to pick up your lift ticket doesn’t even happen for some hour and a half after we arrive. This had us scratching out heads in befuddlement, but that’s Korea. What is even more insane is that most people only do a day trip, meaning that they leave the park at four, even though the park stays upon until 10 pm. We couldn’t justify that kind of behavior, so we each shelled out ten dollars for a small hotel room, and instead of packing into a bus home we spent the evening shralping the mountain, grilling meat and drinking. Fuck busses.
Luckily, I snuck into an empty back row and curled up into my secret ‘sleep anywhere’ position to catch a few hours as the bus driver manned the thing like a maniac. If I sat normal, my feet would fall asleep wedged underneath the seat in front. So I risked a neck sprain to attempt an innovative fetal roll, notice the hands tucked between the legs. The neck pillow is just there for support. I know it’s pink, but you cant see it when your sleeping so it doesn’t matter. Stop giving me shit.
So, the bus finally arrives and then you still get to wait hours before actually skiing. Woinski took the opportunity to catch some more ZZzZ’s as groups of Koreans gawked at the waygook curled up amongst our luggage. I literally saw a guy almost walk into a wall. Every person who walked by did a delayed double take- it is weird enough just being a foreigner here, forget curled up on the floor. You would think she was some kind of zoo animal/alien/pop-star the way people were investigating.
Even of you didn’t drink anything, after the bus you will feel like you chugged a toilet full of soju, so I advise you get some of this while you strain to keep your eyes upon waiting for the lift. Honestly, as stupid as the bus system was it was well worth it, and once we were swooped up for rentals, and on the lift being whipped by the icy wind, we had forgotten about the unfortunate morning. With the prices, we really didn’t have room to complain. First, we headed for a rental shop were we dropped 20 on gear for the weekend (boards, boots, googles, snow pants). And then we were boarding the lifts for a full day on the mountain. Yippee!
So this was Lauren’s second time snowboarding (the first being the weekend before), and I was pretty damn impressed. She was struck by the realization last week that she is indeed a goofy foot, joining a long-line of minority rippers, including both my father and I. By Saturday afternoon she was carving up the hill, careening down slopes, plowing through groups of Koreans, occasionally taking out a small child or two, and generally just being a bad ass. After a few hours of snow plowing she was heel siding back and forth across the hill. I swear by next time she will be ruling the terrain park. Check the video above and watch her patented ‘slow-down 180.’
There were a few steeper slopes, and the conditions were nice for carving. It had snowed all week, and there was a soft, fresh coat. I hadn’t boarded in a few years, but it came pretty quick. Last time I went snowboarding was four years ago while visiting the legendary ‘cRaZy Dave’ in Colorado, having snowboarded once before that maybe five years prior. The first night we arrived they were dragging us up the mountain in the dark. I tumbled down the whole thing and at the bottom the cops were waiting for us. Fucking up the snow the night before opening day. After two weekends on the slopes in Korea everything felt natural, the movements all so similar to surfing. At times I actually thought I was surfing, just carving back and forth on a snow bank. It wasn’t until I smashed into a five year old snow plow and ended with my face buried in the snow that I realized I was snowboarding in Korea.
The resort was lacking in food choices, only serving one or two meals depending on the time of day. Last week they only had fried pork cutlet so I was glad when strolling upon the cafeteria we found this pan-seared seafood thing that Woinski is shoveling into her mouth above. We hadn’t really thought to bring snacks and spent the day re-fueling at the mountain side espresso huts with coffee and strangely enough, churros, everyone’s favorite Mexican pastry? Before the night session we managed to find the beer. We had been searching the past two weeks. It seems the only place on the mountain that has beer is the pizza place at the bottom of the hill. We had a mondo-pitcher and snowboarded until they shut the slopes down. We played it smart the next day and stuffed tall boys into our snow gear.
Luckily this week we went the smarter route and decided not to shell out for the resort, and instead crammed into a little pension, where we all slept in the same room on a mat on the floor. It ended up a thousand times better. It was ten bucks a person, and the owner served as our personal chauffeur. Honestly, we weren’t at the hotel for more than an hour while awake. We were at the mountain until well past ten and then there to shower before blowing out for a late night galbi dinner. We woke up the next morning collected our stuff, and headed back to the slopes. The room was literally a floor, but we only used it for conching out after an exhausting day, and pounding a few beers in between showering.
The town was pretty dead. Just a resort and rental shops, one wonders what the hell goes on in off season. Luckily, we found a little strip, mostly quiet, but we happened across this galbi joint packed with younger, boarder types with tables full of beer and soju. This is such a fun way to eat, they bring out a platter of meat and you cook it while gradually draining soju bottles. You hang for a while, try not to burn your hand off, or start a fire, drink more, and then stumble out of the place royally finished. We got picked up by a taxi cab and hit the floor sleeping.
The next day we got our act together, checked out and nailed down an afternoon session before almost missing our bus. Jay somehow got us the deluxe bus back and we sat in the back row like kings presiding over the convey. We stretched out our legs, watched video from the trip, read, and eventually passed out. We rolled into rainy Busan a little after nine and unpacked our stuff before keeling over from exhaustion and melting into lifeless puddles of melted snow.