Making the most of winter
Skiing and snowboarding can be enjoyed at several resorts within an hour's drive of Seoul until the end of March
Stepping off the shuttle bus from Seoul at Konjiam Resort in Gyeonggi Province, it's hard not to stand there breathing long gulps of the fresh crisp air.
About a 50-minute drive from southern Seoul, Jeonggwangsan mountain peak and foothills are covered with snow dotted with skiers and snowboarders dressed in colourful outfits.
"Welcome to the resort, the best place to spend your winter," says Bae Chan-young, assistant manager of the sales and marketing team at Konjiam Resort.
He may well be right, as the resort boasts the largest ski slopes in the Seoul area and features 476 condominium rooms, a spa, golf course and other subsidiary facilities.
Spring may be coming next month but here the mercury is still lingering in the sub-zero region. Indeed, late February and early March may be the best time to take up "leports" - Konglish for leisure sports - as resorts are not too crowded and offer visitors a wealth of promotions from which to choose.
Starting from the main entrance gate at Konjiam Resort, lodges, conference rooms and walking trails bustle with holidaymakers armed with ski boots, goggles, padded outfits and large smiles.
About 400,000-500,000 winter sports lovers have already visited the resort in the 2012-13 winter season and more than 2,000 head there every day to take advantage of the final days of winter.
"We try to restrict daily admission to 7,000," says Bae. "Otherwise the slopes become too crowded."
The resort is not only for ski or snowboard lovers: The facility is also filled with other programmes for those who prefer not to venture outdoors.
In Konjiam, several spas such as Whoo Spa, Wellness Spa and Family Spa provide different services but an equal level of comfort. Well-trained masseuses rub and relax the muscles of the feet, legs, shoulders and the entire body.
Youngsters ignore the space in favour of the fitness club and sports club, equipped with a pool and ping pong tables, or sing karaoke.
Skiers can join the "one point free ski clinic" led by former members of the national ski squad.
Many visitors take advantage of the end-of-season package priced at 240,000 won (Bt6,500), which covers one night's accommodation in the lodge, a buffet breakfast, sauna, 50-per-cent discount on the ski lift, and a 20-per-cent discount for the family spa.
And, as the crowds start to thin out, several other resorts join Konjiam in offering discounts and perks to those who patronise their facilities until the end of the season. Some of the best include:
_ Phoenix Park, which offers free accommodation for a day, as well as a 160,000 won weekday package providing lift use for two, buffet breakfast for two and a one-night stay at its accommodation. A similar package including spa and sleigh use is also on offer.
_ Jisan Forest Resort, which gives a 50-per-cent discount for lift use to university students on Tuesdays and Thursdays, to 20-somethings and 30-somethings on Wednesdays and to everyone on Mondays and Fridays.
_ Yangji Pine Resort, which offers discounts on ski lifts plus a 117,000 won package consisting of a one-night stay in its accommodation, lift use for a day, sauna admission for two, and half-price rentals for two.