Skiing Within the Borders of North Korea l Possible but not Recommended…

Jesse Cassidy |
Town of Begaebong, Samjiyon region of North Korea
Town of Begaebong, Samjiyon region of North Korea. Photo by Eric Lafforgue

Recently North Korea has been the subject of much international attention with the country’s new leader Kim Jong-Un threatening to attack South Korea and its allies which include the United States. With all the saber rattling by this small Asian country on the northern end of the Korean Peninsula, many are curious to look inside this very isolated nation. While photographs that come out of Korea are often state controlled, there are a few photojournalists that have managed to photograph the real North Korea.

One thing that may shock many about this tiny secretive nation, is that there is actually skiing to be had in the rugged mountains that cover the northern Korean Peninsula.

North Korea map

North Korea is the result of the Korean War that raged from 1950 to 1953 and was only ended by an armistice in July of 1953 where the UN drew a line on the 38th parallel that divided the peninsula into South Korea and the Democratic Peoples Republic of North Korea. The North is far more rugged and hold peaks that reach 2200 meters and are often covered by snow in the winter months. And it may be hard to believe but there is actually a ski area located within the borders of North Korea. Located in the town of Begaebong in the northern region of Samjiyon, this newly constructed ski hill sits on Mount Paektu, an active volcano.

The one ski run at Begaebong
The one ski run at Begaebong. Photo by Eric Lafforgue

The ski hill itself is less than impressive, with one run that is only about 875 meters long, and a single chairlift that holds about 80 chairs, it is still quite amazing considering the country’s history of poverty. And while it is hard to say whether the general public is allowed to use the facilities, given that every photograph shows the hill empty, it is most certainly a luxury destination for the country’s ruling elite. So while this may not be a viable option, not that North Korea particularly is an option for skiing, the mountains that line the Chinese Korean border are actually rather impressive and harbor endless back country options.

Changbai mountains on the border of China and Korea
Changbai mountains on the border of China and Korea

So while skiing lift accessed terrain in North Korea is simply an unreal goal, there are some pretty good back country options that line the Chinese and Korean border. While certainly not recommended given the current geopolitical climate in the area, it would be an interesting, dangerous, and possibly amazing adventure. So unless your name is Dennis Rodman, we can only dream about these mountains for the time being.

Mount Changbai in the Jilin Province, border of China and North Korea
Mount Changbai in the Jilin Province, border of China and North Korea

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9 thoughts on “Skiing Within the Borders of North Korea l Possible but not Recommended…

  1. It would be epic to ski those peaks on the Chinese border. One helluva story too. Great write up.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +1 (1 vote)
  2. I’ve skied in south Korea. It’s a trip. Japan is better, but Korea is a more bizarre experience.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    +1 (1 vote)
  3. 이봐요
    왜 동해가 sea of japan 이죠?
    why east sea is sea of japan ??
    is no ! never !
    절대 이건 아닙니다 ! 한국의 고유 영토를 일본 영해라고 표기하는건
    절대로 있을 수 없는 일입니다
    수정 부탁드립니다;

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)
  4. Sea of Japan is wrong marking.Please reform it to donghae.
    Donghae is korea territory.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    0 (0 votes)

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