As a ski bum, you’ll travel to the end of the earth for fresh powder. You’re a regular in Aspen, Niseko, and Zermatt. You head to Falls Creek and Portillo when the hemispheres flop seasons. You’ve even started testing out Bansko, Jasná, and Kranjska Gora as they’ve grown into reputable ski resorts. So how far are you really willing to go?
Morocco? Of course. China? Definitely. Kyrgyzstan? Sure. North Korea? Pause. A long pause. It turns out that there’s one country for which you’re not quite ready to jump on an airplane.
Masikryong Ski Resort is the only ski resort in North Korea. It’s in Kangwon Province, an area that was part of Gangwon until the Korean Peninsula was divided in 1945. It’s just 12 miles outside of Wonsan, an eastern port that’s currently being developed as a summer resort. While it was created with the hopes of both hosting events during the 2018 Winter Olympics and increasing the country’s number of foreign visitors.
The resort is a pet project of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un. Its hotel, 11 runs, summit restaurant, and ice rink were constructed by the Korean People’s Army in just 10 months. It didn’t proceed without worldwide controversy, though. Ski equipment is on the United Nation’s list of sanctioned luxury goods. So the original plan to use Swiss-made chairlifts was nixed.
To get around the ban, North Korea imported old equipment through China. The country’s first ski mountain uses retired, 30-year-old gondola lifts that were originally made in Austria. This resort isn’t as brand new or as state of the art as it appears. So, despite constant snowmaking and a season that lasts for five months, you aren’t about to go skiing in North Korea anytime soon. Everyone has their limit.