Three professional snowboarders will head to North Korea’s Masikryong ski resort in January, as part of a weeklong tour to the facility, according to a press release from New Jersey based travel company Uri Tours.
Terje Håkonsen, Dan Liedahl and Mike Ravelson will be the first professional snowboarders to visit the resort, though the trip is also open to other tourists. The tour was organised in conjunction with Snowboarder Magazine.
“The riders were really excited about it as well. These guys have a sense of adventure and they’re always down to go to far flung locales so they were eager to ride Masik Pass,” Tom Monterosso, the magazine’s editor said in the press release.
The trip will run from January 9 to 16, costs $2400 and includes a helicopter flight to Masikryong from Pyongyang. Several tour companies recently started running plane and helicopter excursions in the North Korean capital, however this is the first time tourists will be able to use Air Koryo’s MI-17 helicopters to get to the resort.
The news comes despite recent reports the resort would be closed until the middle of January, with tour guides citing poor roads conditions and a lack of snow as possible reasons for the closure.
The new tour is just one of a number initiatives focused on sports in the DPRK, though a wide ranging ban on all visitors entering the country last year likely prevented the ski resort from attracting as much attention as other sport based tours like the Pyongyang marathon.
“We have found that sports is an effective avenue for engagement and interaction between foreign travelers and local people, particularly where language can be a barrier,” Andrea Lee, CEO of Uri Tours said in the press release.
Completed in late 2013, Masikryong is one of North Korea’s large scale construction projects of personal interest to DPRK leader Kim Jong Un. The resort cost an estimated $30 million to build, and was intended to attract large numbers of international tourists.
Charging $50 per person, the People’s Committee in Kangwon Province and DPRK Ministry of Sports reportedly anticipated a net revenue stream of $62.5 million from the ski resort per year, of which $43.75 million would be profit.
“North Korea is trying to cover their revenue through those kinds of tours and events. In the past, they got a lot of money by running the (Mt.) Kumgang tours,” Shin Yong-seok, a researcher at the Korea Culture and Tourism Institute told NK News.
Shin however is unsure the resort has reached its revenue targets yet.
“I think Masikryong is not an attractive ski resort because for Chinese visitors, skiing is not a familiar sport. And for the Americans and Europeans, they are more familiar with skiing, but have domestic ski resorts. So, it seems it has not paid for itself until now.”
The Uri Tours press release also confirms the construction new facilities at skiing resort.
In November NK News reported a new structure running from the resort up one of the mountains. Satellite imagery indicates the presence of cables and pylons, which could mean the additions are a part of a new gondola system.
“The total area of the resort is 1412 hectares, with 10 runs, 4 chairlifts and a new gondola installed this year,” the press release reads.
Additional reporting by Hyunbi Park
Featured image: Uri Tours
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