Five of Asia’s top ski resorts

(CNNGo) — Want to pile through chest-deep powder in Japan? Find massive air in China? Here’s the guide to Asia’s downhill thrills.

Yongpyong, Gangwon-do, South Korea

Yongpyong Ski Resort is the oldest ski resort in South Korea and remains one of its most popular — not only because of the superb skiing, but also because “Winter Sonata,” arguably the most beloved TV drama of the soap-obsessed country, was filmed there.

Yongpyong has more than 6 square miles of ski terrain with 31 groomed slopes adding up to about 15.5 miles.

The 3.5-mile Rainbow Paradise is the resort’s longest run and can be accessed by a 2-mile gondola that takes visitors up from the base. There’s also a strong chance that skiers and snowboarders can find fresh powder at Yongpyong.

Off the slopes, Yongpyong offers “Winter Sonata” tours for true soap opera junkies and a water park with hot springs.

Yongpyong is frequently chosen as the site for international tournaments, including the Asian Winter Olympics in 1999 and the Interski Congress in 2007.

Getting there: Yongpyong is two and a half hours away from Seoul by car. For directions click here. Alternatively, there are resort shuttle buses operating from Seoul and Hwenggye, Gangnung daily. The shuttle bus schedule can be accessed here.


Niseko, Hokkaido, Japan

Thanks to bouts of winter storms off Siberia, the Niseko resort area ranks among the snowiest resorts in the world. It’s also one of the few ski resorts in Japan with boisterous nightlife, which perhaps explains why it’s the most popular ski destination in Japan among Aussies.

Regulars rave about skiing into chest-deep dry powder without resistance. Niseko is also famous for off-piste and night skiing.

Niseko has four ski resorts, each with separate, but interlinked, ski areas. The terrain adds up to 2,191 acres and can be accessed with one ski pass.

Niseko Hirafu is the largest resort of the four and has a small town at its base, with two fun parks, snowmobiling courses and massage facilities.

Getting there: There are JR trains operating to Niseko from Otaru, Sapporo, Hakodate and New Chitose Airport. Skiers can also drive there or take a bus from Sapporo and New Chitose Airport. Click here for details.


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Appi Kogen, Tohoku, Japan

Appi Kogen, or just Appi to regulars, has 21 ski trails with an average run of about 1.2 miles, Japan’s longest average. Many of them are empty even during high season, and carpeted with fresh dry powder.

Seasoned skiers can whiz down the ungroomed steep slopes on Mount Nishi Mori while the kids can stay on the gentle 3.4 mile Yamabato run.

Appi also offers plenty of off-piste options, including an on-site dairy farm that produces ice cream and cheeses, snowmobile and sledding courses, and onsens (hot spring baths). Tots won’t want to leave the Spongebob Kids Park, which has mini ski areas for first timers.

Getting there: From Tokyo, take JR East’s Shinkansen line to Morioka. Once at Morioka station, take train “Hanawa” headed for Appi Kogen station. There is a free shuttle bus from Appi Kogen station to the resort. For more details click here.


Gulmarg, Kashmir

In the 19th century, Gulmarg was a hill station for British colonials to escape the summer heat. These days, it’s a world-class ski resort blanketed with fresh, light powder from the Himalayas, attracting ski bums tired of Alpine lift queues and fondues.

The resort’s claim to fame is the Gulmarg Gondola, the highest ski lift in the world at a dizzying 3,979 meters (about 13,000 feet.) At the top station, skiers can take on challenging runs with Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth-highest peak, as a backdrop.

Gulmarg is intermittently plagued by insurgency, resulting in security lock downs that can stretch on for months, but it has not deterred the 400,000 intrepid skiers who took the Gondola last year.

Getting there: Gulmarg is 35 miles away from state capital Srinagar. Visitors can take a taxi into Gulmarg from Srinagar airport, the journey takes around two hours and costs Rs 1,200-1,500 ($26-33).


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Yabuli Ski Resort, China

Yabuli Ski Resort is China’s largest ski domain with ski slopes that add up to roughly 30 kilometers (about 18 miles). And while it’s the main training venue for the Chinese national skiing teams, it also has plenty to offer adrenalin seekers.

Yabuli has 18 runs of different levels of difficulty. The 1.8-mile A1 is the longest intermediate ski trail in China and is nicknamed the “Trail to Happiness.” Experienced skiers may want to have a go at the 1.6-kilometer A5, known as the “Road for Brave.”

Kids will have a blast swishing down the 1.3 mile sled slide — Asia’s longest — complete with 48 twists and turns.

Yabuli is home to Club Med’s first resort in China. Club Med Yabuli opened to the public on November 27.

Getting there: Hop on a flight to Harbin from Beijing or to Mudanjiang. There are trains and resort shuttle buses to Yabuli from both cities. Another way to get there is to take an overnight train from Beijing to Yabuli. Click here for more details.



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