As many of you know, Korea is hosting the Winter Olympics in their North-Eastern city of PyeongChang in 2018 What you may NOT know, is that you don’t need to wait to see Olympic events here in Korea, as official Olympic Test Events are well underway!
A few weeks ago, we had the chance to visit PyeongChang for one of such events; the FIS Big Air World Cup for Snowboarding. It was quite the journey.
IF you plan to attend one of these events, we advise that you take a long weekend. There is currently no direct train or airports near the host city. According to news outlets, they’re working to remedy that. From Seoul, it can be several hours by bus, and there’s only a few that run there directly. We travelled with PurpleSkiBus which picks up and drops off at several locations in Seoul and drops off at either the YongPyong resort (where we stayed) or the Alpensia resort.
If you attend one of these events, transportation is key to your enjoyment. While at the event, it appeared that most people spectating were part of tour groups who came to the Ski Jump on tour buses. We wished that we had found one of these groups, as taxis were not permitted to enter the zone, and we had to walk over a mountain to get to it, and again to return. The HelloPyeongChang website has links to travel packages that should streamline the entire process. IF you arrive in Pyeongchang WITHOUT a tourbus, taxis are pretty much the only option for moving between the resorts and the other locations. The traffic patrol was very helpful in showing us an app called “KakaoTaxi”, which can send a taxi to your location using your smartphone’s GPS. This is essential, because PyeongChang isn’t like the major cities and there aren’t always taxis standing and waiting.
The event itself was amazing. We were privileged to see real Olympians from around the world compete and hone their skills, right from where the real events will be held in 1 short year.
Korea knows how to put on a show as well. Not only were the snowboarders flying through the air and doing tricks, but right next to the ski-jump was a stage where Hip Hop and Kpop performances were held. The organizers handed out the national flags of all the participants and it was great to mingle with the athletic teams from around the world.
It was also quite entertaining to see the Olympic facilities in their various stages of completion. PyeongChang is working hard to make sure everything is prepared for the events to kick off.
The YongPyong resort was a great hotel for a pretty low cost, and has a bowling alley, arcade, video golf range, bar, restaraunts, cafes, and of course ski slopes, to make your long trip more worth the time.
Overall it was a great experience that I would recommend, IF you have the time and live closer than we did (coming from Busan was quite tiresome). I would also recommend dressing warm, as it does snow up in PyeongChang.
I covered the event for a newspaper back in Michigan, I will include the coverage of the competition results below.
Michigan athletes make powder fly in PyeongChang
The Rio Olympics are over, but the global athletic contests are anything but. This weekend, dozens of men and women from more than 20 nations, including 3 athletes from Michigan, competed in the FIS Big Air World Cup for snowboarding in the future home of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The event showcased “Big Air” snowboarding for spectators at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Center in PyeongChang, South Korea.
PyeongChang – whose population is less than 44,000 – will be hosting the Winter games in 2018, and will be debuting the “Big Air” event for the first time in Olympic history.
“In Big Air, a competitor snowboards down the slope and performs a series of tricks after launching off massive jumps” the HelloPyeongChang website reads. “Big Air has been added as a new event to the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.”
For 2 days, athletes from around the world demonstrated their tricks and skills to a crowd of hundreds of locals. Among the US athletes was Jamie Anderson, 26, who won the gold medal in the Women’s Slopestyle event at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. 3 Michigan natives also competed in PyeongChang for the test event. Karly Shorr, 22, of Milford, Eric Beauchemin, 25, of Grand Blanc, and Kyle Mack, 19, of West Bloomfield, each performed in the qualifying rounds but did not advance to the finals. Shorr placed sixth at Sochi in 2014.
Among the US finalists were Julia Marino, 19, and Ryan Stassel, 24. Marino placed second for the Ladies with a score of 157.00. She took silver. Stassel placed third for the Men’s with a score of 177.25, taking bronze.
Big Air winner Anna Gasser of Austria said, “I’m really happy that everything worked out as I planned. The ramp was really cool, everything worked out great. The speed was easy and the snow was really nice. I hope I can perform as well as I did at the PyeongChang Olympic Games.” Gasser took gold with a score of 180.75.
The first place finisher from Canada, Mark McMorris said, “It feels good to land like that. That was the trick I broke my femur on and I haven’t done that trick since. It was a big mental thing to overcome that and being on first place is icing on the cake.” McMorris’ score of 184.75 earned him gold.
The test event provided a look at not only the sport and prospective athletes, but the location itself. Visitors could see the Olympic facilities in various stages of completion, including the Olympic village which will be home to the competitors in 2018. Spectators traveling from long distances utilized cars and buses to reach the event, a trip that takes between 2 and 4 hours from Seoul to complete. According to the PyeongChang website, a high-speed rail line will be completed in 2017 that connects Seoul to the event location, reducing the transit time. Korean pop and hip hop artists performed on a stage next to the ski jump, providing a soundtrack to the snowboarders’ aerial stunts.
The PyeongChang Olympics will be held February 9th to 25th in 2018. It will be the second Olympics held in Korea. Seoul held the Summer games in 1988.