Thursday 17 April 2014

Piste anyone? North Korea’s Kim Jong-un opens ski resort

Notoriously secretive State opens ski resort but queues should not be a problem

It’s not exactly what you’d expect in a country famed for being the world’s last bastion of hardline communism, but welcome to the world’s newest ski resort - located in the improbable setting of North Korea.

As this piece of film shows, the much-heralded Masik Pass Ski resort is now open for business - and from the looks of things, long queues at the lifts should not be a problem.

The film comes courtesy of Koryo Tours, a Beijing-based operator that specialises in trips to North Korea. And according to its man on the slopes, Simon Cockerell, the pistes are ready for action and in the Masikrong Hotel, there is already at least one place in which visitors can comfortably stay.

The Masik Pass Ski Pass resort, the brain-child of North Korea’s current leader Kim Jong Un, has been a controversial project from the start. In a country that struggles to feed its own people, what on earth was the point of building a luxury ski resort?

Some have suggested that, with South Korea set to host the Winter Olympics in 2018, Kim Jong Un wanted to show that North Korea was just as capable of staging such events. Some have also pointed to the fact that having spent some of his formative years in Switzerland, the country’s leader developed an early love for the luxury ski lifestyle.

The resort - built in just 10 months at considerable sacrifice to the workforce – has a total of nine ski runs, the longest being over five kilometres, according to Cockerell. And the runs are serviced by Chinese-made lifts. During his visit, moreover, there was very little waiting time. Far from the 5,000 visitors a day expected, there were just some 200.

But that could change. Koryo Tours is already offering trips to the resort for this season, and the North Koreans themselves are hoping that it will form one of a spate of new attractions aimed at encouraging more people to visit the country.


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