Skip to main content

World's most exotic luxury ski resort? Hitting the slopes at Masik, North Korea

By Frances Cha and Paula Hancocks, CNN
February 14, 2014 -- Updated 1527 GMT (2327 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Snowboarder and journalist Jean Lee checks in at N. Korea's new luxury ski resort
  • Masik, which opened on January 1, has 11 ski runs and a 120-room hotel
  • Resort "built for locals" -- foreigners may come with tour groups

(CNN) -- North Korea has no athletes at the Sochi Olympic Games, and skiing is not the first thing that springs to mind when thinking about the isolated nation.

That's why tour operators are billing North Korea's luxury new Masik Pass as "the most exotic ski resort on Earth."

Located in Kangwon province, the hotel and resort -- the only one of its kind in the country -- opened January 1 after a series of reported setbacks.

Earlier this year, CNN Travel reported on the experience of one of the first visitors to the resort, Simon Cockerell, from Beijing-based Koryo Tours.

Simon Cockerell of Beijing-based tour company, Koryo Tours, took these images after being invited to the newest ski resort in North Korea. Simon Cockerell of Beijing-based tour company, Koryo Tours, took these images after being invited to the newest ski resort in North Korea.
First look
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
>
>>

More recently we spoke to another visitor, snowboarding journalist Jean Lee, whose video of her Masik trip is shown above.

File: Hitting slopes at new resort

Surprised by the caliber of the equipment at the resort, Lee also notes that she got to chat to ordinary North Koreans -- because her government minders couldn't ski.

Pyongyang made a failed bid to co-host the Summer Olympics when Seoul held the games in 1988.

Who knows?

Maybe Masik signals North Korea's intent to try again when its southern neighbor hosts the winter games in 2018.

What follows is an edited version of our story on Simon Cockerell's visit to Masik earlier this year. Koryo Tours is one of the few foreign tour companies operating in North Korea.

'Fancy and comfortable'

Cockerell found Masik Pass to be "fancy and comfortable."

Along with 11 ski runs, there are 120 hotel rooms housed in two buildings, a swimming pool, bars, cafés, billiard tables, a karaoke room, a steam room and a dry sauna.

Local tour guides speak English but don't tend to ski; for the large number of ski instructors, you'd need a translator.

The resort is "clearly built for locals," Cockerell said, although it was expected to draw some foreigners coming with tour operators such as his own.

"The number of local Korean skiers was a surprise, considering that [before Masik opened] there was just one ski slope in the country -- and in a very remote and hard to reach area," Cockerell said.

At the time of writing, foreigners couldn't book at Masik Pass directly but would have to come with a group tour.

Controversial construction

"We're aware of the controversies surrounding [Masik]," wrote Cockerell on the Koryo Tours blog.

"It's a highly expensive construction project that many see as economically doubtful."

The resort has been scrutinized abroad from conception to construction.

Austrian and French companies declined to sell ski lifts to North Korea.

Even the neutral Swiss refused, calling Masik a "propaganda project," according to the Washington Post.

Masik's ski lifts were made in China.

MORE: How to travel to North Korea

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0207 GMT (1007 HKT)
Where to pay homage to the cutest local celebrities you'll ever stalk.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
For air travelers who like to gripe about being cramped in economy, here comes another warning that they've never had it so good.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
Cream cakes from the Ruszwurm bakery in Budapest, Hungary
Proving they're what's really important, the world's best pastry shops have survived survived sieges, revolutions and World War II.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Lois Pryce ignored naysayers and traveled 3,000 miles via motorcycle to discover the real Iran.
July 17, 2014 -- Updated 0320 GMT (1120 HKT)
Built at a cost of $442.2 million, Universal Studios Japan hopes its new Potter attraction will bring in $55 billion over 10 years.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1440 GMT (2240 HKT)
A scene in Marrakech
The gateway to Morocco's Atlas Mountains is becoming a photographer's paradise -- but capturing it on camera isn't easy.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 2136 GMT (0536 HKT)
Cathay Pacific was pronounced the world's best airliner of the year at the industry's leading awards ceremony in Farnborough on Tuesday.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 2044 GMT (0444 HKT)
Britain has stolen a march in the space race with plans for the world's first spaceport outside the U.S.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
In the hunt for the world's best amusement park, the people have spoken -- and it seems the people like mixing with creatures who eat a lot of fish.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0611 GMT (1411 HKT)
An Hellenic Seaplanes aircraft
Seaplane network set to open up far-flung destinations to affordable jet-setting tours.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
A man who took a dangerous selfie during the running of the bulls in Pamplona, with the half-ton beasts right behind him, is still on the run -- but this time from the police.
July 15, 2014 -- Updated 0207 GMT (1007 HKT)
Its cramped rooms and retro lobby are dated, but its charm and devotion to customers are worth preserving.
July 14, 2014 -- Updated 0553 GMT (1353 HKT)
A young girl sits on a bench decorated with an image of Paddington Bear.
As part of a scheme to encourage reading, 50 benches designed in the style of popular novels or kids' stories have been scattered around London.
July 12, 2014 -- Updated 0101 GMT (0901 HKT)
To all the locals who have been hoarding the following beaches, please forgive us.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 1310 GMT (2110 HKT)
Jason Hullinger, a computer security architect in Los Angeles, went to Joshua Tree National Park in December to catch the Geminid meteor shower.
CNN iReporters from across the globe share their incredible images of the skies above us.
ADVERTISEMENT