Taking the Piste: North Korea Steps Up Ski Resort Construction

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Preparations are underway to make a spectacular ski course in South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Not to be outdone, the country’s pugnacious neighbour North Korea has decided that it too will make its mark on the international winter sports scene, and is beavering away to create a world-class ski resort of its own.

North Korean winters are ferociously cold, with arctic winds from Siberia bringing winter to the highest reaches of the country for up to six months a year and plunging temperatures in the rest of the land into sub-zero averages between December and March. International embargoes on fuel shipments hit particularly hard during this time of year, and for the thousands of North Koreans living in abject poverty, enjoying the seasonal chill and picturesque drifts of snow is a low priority. Nonetheless, North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un has stepped up pace on construction of  a planned 68.3 miles of ski trails, requisitioning the military to join construction efforts.

Based in Masik hill in Wonsan, the resort will contain several runs and a luxurious hotel. Standing at 2,520 feet (768 meters) above sea level, heavy snow falls on the area between November and March, providing optimum conditions for eager (and very brave) ski bunnies. Kim Jong-un himself is thought to be a keen skier, and having spent seven years at a Swiss boarding school, is enthusiastically overseeing the project. He is quoted as optimistically affirming that,  “A skiing wave will seize the country,” once the piste is open for business.

“A skiing wave will seize the country”

According to a recent translated report, at his first official inspection, Kim was,  “Greatly satisfied to learn that soldier-builders have constructed a skiing area on mountain ranges covering hundreds of thousands of square meters, including primary, intermediate and advanced courses.” Showing off his knowledge, he said that it was, “Necessary to build not only rest places, but first aid stations at starting, middle and final points of the courses, and establish an automatic cableway monitoring system for a real time watch to prevent accidents.”

The report also noted that environmental sustainability was being taken into account in the construction, and Kim had been at pains to emphasize the need to preserve the  environment and prevent pollution while building the skiing ground.

Although the resort is said to be open for bookings by international tourists, existing infrastructure for skiing in North Korea is only for use by the country’s military defectors, and many suspect this will also be the case for Masik Hill, despite the government’s announced plans to turn a nearby airfield into a tourist airport to cope with the expected influx of visitors.Domestic production of ski goods and clothing is also underway. International sanctions currently in place ban any imports of luxuries such as ski goggles and salopettes, but with all hands on deck, the local populace should soon be able to equip themselves with all the necessities they need for mountain leisure in the unlikely event it ever becomes a reality for any of them.

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