Alex Parsons is a SnowsBest Contributor and Thredbo ski instructor and is working the season at Phoenix Snow Park in Bokwang PyeongChang. She’s working as a ‘National Technical Official’ for the PyeongChang games in February and this is her Insider Guide.
How long have you been in Phoenix Snow Park
This is my second season at Phoenix Snow Park. In my first season (2015/16) the Foreigner Ski School had only started the year before. I was the only native English speaker, as well as the only female snowboard instructor. From around 12 people in that season the Ski School has now grown to over 30 people with plenty of Aussies in the mix.
South Korea was relatively unknown as a snow destination in 2015, which was part of the appeal! I was excited to explore a new country and see how they did things here. Plus, Pyeongchang had been announced as the host for the 2018 Winter Olympics. I’ve come back because of the Korean hospitality and the way they look after us at the Foreigner Ski School.
My go-to is Valley, a blue run from the top of the mountain. It has a great variety of terrain – it starts with a steeper section, goes to a wide open area perfect for long carves and then it connects to Penguin so you can finish with a quick run through the beginner park. If you like steeps I’d recommend Dizzy – it’s a perfectly groomed 36 degree pitch.
Where do you head on a powder day?
Unfortunately South Korea doesn’t allow tree riding, or any off piste. It’s all about exquisite groomers, park and half pipe here. But they sometimes leave the Paradise run ungroomed so you’ll find me there.
Favourite apres spot
For a casual, cosy drink most of the ski instructors head to Deep Burger. It’s directly opposite the resort and if you don’t like beer or soju you can BYO!
Favourite on mountain dining
At the moment there’s only three different on-hill options and none that I particularly love. However we’re getting a number of brand new restaurants that are opening during the Olympics that sound amazing, so look out for those!
Favourite village dining
By far my favourite (and everyone else’s) is Kkorovei. We just call it ‘The Container Cafe’ because it’s made out of a shipping container on stilts attached to the rest of the building that is concrete, metal and glass. It’s just a 10 minute walk up the road from the resort. It’s a stunning spot, very artsy and design-focused. The food is fresh, locally sourced and beautifully presented.
Must do snow activity
If you get the chance, try the traditional Korean winter activity Sseolmae Tagi. It’s a form of ice sledding where you sit on a tiny wooden sled on your knees and push yourself around with little wooden ice picks. They do it at some of the hotels at Phoenix Park on occasion.
Deep Coffee is awesome. Directly opposite the resort (and next to Deep Burger) is this black van covered in stickers where they serve coffee from the side window. Good coffee can be hard to come by outside of the cities so make sure you find this place!
Kkorovei does the best brunch spread I’ve ever seen. It’s different every time you go but expect things like avocado, eggs, bacon and strawberries all laid out like a work of art. And coffee is included! All that for 17,000 KRW (less than $20 AUD).
Favourite non skiing/boarding activity
There’s bowling, a game arcade and plenty of karaoke around Phoenix Park. But to be totally honest, my favourite non-snow activity is going to visit the local dog Bou near the Music Box bar. He’s a Great Pyrenees who is as big as a polar bear and he’s so friendly. The owners are lovely and let members of the Ski School take him for walks around town.
Where do you take visitors to impress them?
I’d take them to the top of Phoenix Park for beautiful views of the mountains that stretch as far as you can see. The snowy mountains in Korea are unlike any I’ve in Canada, Australia, Japan or the US. They’re low and hazy, creating a layered water colour effect.
Where would you take a date?
Obviously I would see if they can snowboard first. If they can’t then the relationship is over. I’m kidding, if they weren’t a snow bunny I’d take them to the nearby city of Wonju to visit the Raccoon & Dog Cafe. Everyone loves dogs, right? And the raccoons have so much personality. They stick their hands in your pockets (even unzip them!), climb over you and steal all your things. Plus there’s no entry fee to the cafe, you just pay for drinks.
Best activity in resort or town for kids/families?
Head to the Blue Canyon Water Park, just a few minutes walk from the main resort. The water park has slides, a wave pool, float course and heaps of spas and massage jets for mum and dad to enjoy too. The outdoor spas are my favourite. There’s something special about being outside at night, surrounded by snow, while you’re toasty warm in a 40 degree bath.
What should visitors not leave your resort without doing?
Taking a photo at the top of the mountain in the big red love heart!
What item should visitors take back with them?
A raccoon. Failing that, they do some seriously cool jackets here in Korea.
You will see everyone in these padded down jackets and believe me, you need them here. Korean winters are freezing and the wind is bitter because it comes down from Siberia. I bought this beautiful white down jacket last time I was here but it’s so incredibly warm I don’t get the chance to wear it except for in Korea and Canada. But whenever I do I always get compliments on it.