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On the Rocks: Ski North Korea

Like everyone else, I’ve been losing sleep over the disturbing news out of North Korea. Is there new work at the contentious site? Will they be able to get the parts they need from abroad? Is this new dictator Kim Jong-un a madman?!

I’m of course talking about the ski resort that North Korea is trying to build. Late in the summer they announced plans to build a mega resort, but were quickly stymied by an Austrian company that refused to install the $7.8 million chairlift system citing an international embargo on luxury goods. The world’s top ski lift maker, Doppelmayr, said it was for political reasons.

North Korea claimed it was building the resort to provide its people with the same opportunities that citizens of the world enjoy, but Doppelmayr wasn’t buying it. And it seems that most experts agree that this is a pet project of Jong-un to indulge a sport he fell in love with while studying abroad in Switzerland.

The war-mongering politics of a dictator who lets his own people starve while attempting to hold the world hostage by nuclear means aside, I kind of think they should build the resort. And I also got to wondering, what kind of ski boots does Kim Jong-un wear? He would have bought them in Switzerland around 2007 while studying there. I’m guessing he’s not a rear-entry kind of guy. He’s probably still rocking the Salomon Falcon 10s or maybe a pair of old Lange World Cups, depending on the width of his feet and whether or not the sales clerk offered him a free Lange girl poster.  And which skis? Is he still riding a pair of Rossi Backcountrys with the twin tips? Or maybe he’s a GS guy, loves to point them and go, feel the freedom of speed. Does he wear baggy pants, or is he still rocking a yellow-and-black Steep Tech outfit? If I had to guess, I’d say he wears a Bogner outfit that’s an exact replica of his high-collared suit.

A more important question for us:  Would you ski North Korea? And a follow up, would you go away for a romantic ski weekend in North Korea with Amanda Knox? Okay, that second one’s not as important, but it’s something to think about.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the sovereign nation of Cuba had nuclear missiles pointed right at us. Sixty years on, despite the travel ban, loads of people vacation in Cuba. They want to see a place free of American ads—a place with authenticity.

I couldn’t vacation in North Korea. None of us could. We’d be feeding money into a regime that uses its money for evil. But one day, perhaps when Jong-un has mellowed with age on the whole nuke-and-human-atrocities thing, North Korea will be a place to go skiing. People are curious. It’s the last place to venture beyond the iron curtain, to get a look at a way of life so foreign it’ll make your head spin.

For now I’ll keep following the news of their fabulous ski resort. And perhaps one day I’ll be drinking bottles of Taedonggang and blueberry ginseng wine after a day of dodging long-forgotten land mines on the slopes.