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This is a preview of a feature that originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of SKI. To read the full story and get access to more premium content than your eyeballs can handle, join Outside+ today.
TO GET TO THE WORLD’S MOST exotic ski resort you must first get to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, where, after the People’s Army checks your papers and records your smartphone’s serial number, you will end up at the Yanggakdo, one of perhaps eight hotels in this city of 2.5 million people where foreigners are allowed to stay. The hotel is grayish blue and lords over a horn-shaped island. It has 47 floors and a thousand outdated rooms. About 30 of those rooms are occupied today.
It is mid-February, the year Juche 103. The frozen Taedong River that flows around the hotel is corpse-gray, stiff, and riddled with abandoned ice-fishing holes that look like bullet wounds. Few lights burn anywhere, only a billboard flickering in the distance with images of the country’s dictator, Kim Jong-un. He’s the reason I’m here.
But first, breakfast. The elevator snaps shut with crushing authority. It’s 38 floors down from my room to Restaurant 1, which sits next to Restaurant 2, which sits next to a glass-walled gift shop that sells severed baby bear paws to cure indigestion.