Snow skiing has been a passion of mine since I still had the nickname “Lil’ Britches” and wore all of my brother’s hand-me-down winter clothes. At four years old (I turned five on the 2nd or 3rd day of skiing, but it still counts) I first hit the slopes in Colorado’s Winter Park Ski Resort. For the next 12 or 13 years I visited Winter Park every year around Spring Break for 3 days of skiing and mountain bliss. From a young age, the mountains called to me. The winter fresh powder made me salivate and dream of uncomfortable boot rentals while in the summer I longed for Rocky Mountain hiking and 14,000 ft fits of exhaustion.
Living in South Korea offers plenty of opportunities for getting mountain fixes, but they simply aren’t the same. While 70% of this country may be covered in mountains (figures vary), they aren’t the same. The difference in size between the mountains of my home country and South Korea is best understood through skiing. Anyone who has skied in America, regardless of the resort has skied larger mountains with better snow, and fewer people. Skiing will always be an activity that I will jump at when given the opportunity, but it’s different in Korea.
Korean mountains, at least the popular ones, are crowded. Invariably, a popular hike or ski slope will be filled with people getting out to enjoy what little free time they are afforded with their family and their extravagantly priced outdoor equipment. I can’t blame them for racing to the ski slopes as we are guilty of the same offense every winter, but this over saturation of skiers is far more pronounced than back in the States. Mostly this is due to size of mountain and number of runs, but most, if not all, foreigners with previous skiing experience will say that it’s crowded.
Now I need to tell you that I am proud of my wife. Not only do I love to expose her to hobbies that she had not previously been able to pursue, but passions like skiing need training and practice. While ski experiences in Korea are cheap and present affordable opportunities to learn the sport, the crowds are less than ideal for learning and first attempts. Stephanie has been a trooper. Starting back when we lived in Seoul, we began skiing together in Korea’s bleak winters. Despite the crowds and ill-fitting rental clothes, she’s improved at an incredible rate to a level of astonishing competency.
This past break for Korean Lunar New Year’s (Seollal), we road tripped up to High 1 ski resort for one last romp on the snowy slopes of northern South Korea. For her fourth time ever skiing, we were blessed with relatively empty hills and fresh snow falling on us for the whole day. After building a sure-footed and (somewhat) confident feeling about the sport I love, Stephanie was finally able to ski natural snow and push herself without the fear of hitting the hundreds of Koreans skiing with their arms held out horizontally for stability(?). She’s improved dramatically in these few times skiing with a “fall until you learn better”- type coach encouraging her every downhill.
Skiing has always been a love of mine. I’m not particularly fond of winter, but I know of the magic that it holds if I can just bring myself to venture out into the cold and white. The best thing for me about skiing in Korea isn’t the return to an activity that I am so in love with: it’s been in sharing with Stephanie and seeing her learn to appreciate snow for the first time in her life. Seeing her grinning from ear to ear after a confident ski run has been incredibly rewarding for me. It’s been wonderful to get past the tears when we tricked her into going down Expert runs to a point where she handles challenging hills with an apprehensive confidence. I look forward to skiing with her back in Colorado and beyond someday, but this year, again has held some amazing days of skiing with Stephanie.
Share your passions with the ones you love. There’s nothing quite like doing your favorite things with your favorite person. I’m a very lucky man.