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
updated 10:27 AM EST, Fri February 14, 2014
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
updated 6:07 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Which cities provide the most memorable party times? A self-proclaimed "nightlife connoisseur" names his top 10.
updated 11:44 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
Whether you're looking for a post-meeting pint or a wild night out, creativity is on the menu at these hot Hong Kong venues.
updated 6:28 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
An image showing the Istanbul district of Beyoglu where gentrification is changing the face of the neighborhood and leading the closure of many old shops and establishments.
Artists and migrants are moving out as a once-crumbling neighborhood goes upscale.
updated 1:02 AM EDT, Sat September 20, 2014
They irrigate our farms, are an important means of transport and a source of eco-friendly power.
updated 4:28 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Open House festivals allow snooping in homes and landmarks normally closed to public
updated 12:22 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Ancient competitions held and yurt town set up to rejuvenate nomadic cultures.
updated 9:02 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Playful sea lions, fearless boobies and the only ocean-going lizards in the world -- these islands offer amazing experiences for naturalists and tourists alike.
updated 8:00 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
A foreign language can be the best aphrodisiac, so we traveled the world in search of the hottest accents.
updated 2:57 AM EDT, Tue September 23, 2014
Hidden from the rest of the world for decades, Myanmar's Lethwei boxing is experiencing a revival globally.
updated 7:17 AM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
This aging cargo work whale makes more than 60 flights each week, carrying parts for all of the Airbus programs.
updated 8:26 PM EDT, Sun September 14, 2014
Former brothels, public toilets and war bunkers now provide eccentric watering holes for those willing to drink deep.
updated 11:38 PM EDT, Thu September 11, 2014
Whether filled with electric blue sulfur flames or hissing lava, these mega mountains offer incredible vistas.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT