Top-class ski slopes on HK's doorstep

PEOPLE who yearn for the snow should head for Korea - the closest ski destination to Hong Kong and by far the cheapest.

Seven world-class ski resorts are now open and package ski tours start for as little as $4,000.

Prices have not yet been fixed for the coming season, which runs from December to March.

But one of the Hong Kong agents for packages to the Korean snow fields, Jumbo Link (Tel: 369 3818), reported skiing holidays would start at about $4,000.

That will be the approximate price for a three-night four-day package. A four-night five-day holiday is likely to cost between $4,500 and $5,000.

These prices cover flights, transportation and hotels.

On top, ski lift passes range from $190-$230 a day (half-day rate: $140-$170). Ski-rental varies from $100-$150 (half-day) to $180-$240 for a day.

'Skiing is becoming much more popular in Korea,' Duk Soo-hur, director of the Korea National Tourism Corporation, said.

'Before it was quite exclusive. Now many people ski.' Korea's ever-growing choice of resorts is also attracting increasing numbers of foreign skiers. For the Japanese, it is cheaper to travel to Korea's resorts than to ski at home.

Korea Travel Service will be offering a five-day four-night package, including ski hire and lift passes, for about $6,000.

Westminster Travel's packages, for a minimum of four days and three nights, will range from $4,900 to $7,000, including ski hire, lifts and instruction.

The ski resorts are all within a four-hour drive from Seoul.

Most popular are Bears Town, with seven slopes just an hour north of the city, and Yong Pyeong/ Dragon Valley - the country's largest and most established resort with 19 slopes and 12 lifts. It is just over three hours east of Seoul and is hosting the 1996 Asian Winter Games.

The highest skiing mountain and newest resort is Muju, nearly four hours south of Seoul in Mount Togyusan National Park. It has 23 slopes and a 3.2-kilometre ski run - the longest in the country. There is also a 48-km cross-country course.

Claiming the largest volume and best quality snow is The Alps - one of the favoured destinations for Hong Kong skiers - in Mount Soraksan National Park. It has the only European-style condominium complex in Korea, plus traditional, rustic log cabins.

The gentle slopes of Chonmasan, less than an hour south of Seoul, are popular with day trippers and novices. Year-round skiing is an option here on a 250-metre artificial slope.

For bowl skiing, an hour south of Seoul is Yangji, in a dense forest, and the Aurora Valley, a little further south close to Suanbo Hot Springs.