High1 Resort, Sunday 3 p.m.
The wind screams and beats at the skis and snowboards outside our tiny glass cable car, suspended several tens of meters above the mountain. For a moment, I think we will be blown into the cars descending on the left. The angry, swirling snow finds its way in through the tiny cracks of the gondola car. Even though the glass protects us better than on the metal lifts, we are covering every spare inch of skin with scarves, hats, hoods, and gloves.
Se Jin pulls a scarf up across her nose and mouth. "I am a criminal!"
As we approach the top for this, our last run of the day, all the way down the length of the mountain, I realize we are the only people in view without goggles or sunglasses to protect our eyes against the gusting blizzards and winds. It wasn't snowing earlier.
Suddenly, I'm very, very scared. "You know, if you want, we can just take the lift back down the mountain." Looking at the return cars, I notice that several skiers and boarders have elected this option.
"No," says the criminal Se Jin. "I want to do it."
The top is cold. Freezing. And windy. I can barely see.
As we start down the slope, the wind carries us across the path as much as the slope pulls us down the hill. Se Jin stops at the side because she can't see very well. Frost forms inside my nose as I breathe.
"We have to keep going," I shout. "If we stop now, we'll freeze."
Se Jin nods, blinks into the flurry and the wind and keeps going.
Finally, at the bottom, we return our skis and head for a much needed hot chocolate before climbing back on the tour bus to Daegu.
Se Jin and I took a tour with 경상 tours for about 80,000 won all-inclusive (rental equipment, bus, lift tickets) all-day trip to High1 in Gangwondo. High1 is my favorite ski resort in Korea. The mountain is huge and has lots of different paths you can take. However, it's much further from Daegu than Muju, the place I went to teach Min Gi over Christmas.
We had to catch a bus at 4:40 a.m., so we stayed overnight in a downtown jjimjilbang (찜질방), a Korean public bath with areas for sleeping. For about 5,000-7,000 won, you can relax in the public bath, have a massage in the massage chairs, and sleep on the warm floor overnight. The public bath part is pretty awesome because you can scrub yourself thoroughly clean and then soak in a hot tub or sit in a steam sauna.
There is one catch: you're naked.
Public nudity (gender segregated) in Korea is much more common in shower rooms and the like than in the U.S. and many foreigners feel uncomfortable at first. Especially because the staring that happens regularly on the streets of Korea gets worse when your huge boobs are on display. Friends of mine have been felt up by old women in the bath houses. When my little sister visited, we kept getting approached by ajummas in the public bath at the jjimjilbang and asked rather invasive questions about our bodies. Thankfully, she didn't understand the words, even if she did understand the looks. (And I've heard for the foreign gentlemen there is an open, somewhat aggressive, comparing of packages as rumors abound that Asians are on the smaller end of the phallus size racial distribution, which can make men act strange). However, if you can get over the emotional hangups about being naked and stared at, then the places are quite relaxing.
The sleeping areas are usually co-ed, so you have to wear clothes (bummer, right?). Unfortunately, since we were downtown on a weekend night, there were a lot of people being loud and drunk and turning on and off lights while we tried to catch a few zzz's, so it was a little less than restful. We slept more soundly on the luxury 3-hour bus ride the next morning.
Se Jin and I skied a lot of the beginner runs in the morning. Then, we met Samson and Gwen for lunch because they were staying out there for the whole holiday weekend. That was nice. After one low-intermediate run where Se Jin fell down, she decided to take a break, so I headed out to the upper-intermediate, low-advanced slopes at the top of the mountain. By the last run of the afternoon, it had begun snowing and my legs were on fire.
However, Se Jin and I both wanted to do one more long run down the mountain. A beginner slope, technically, but the conditions made it quite difficult.
When we got back to Daegu, we had a lovely dinner at my favorite downtown Italian restaurant and bid farewell. It was a great day with my big sister!