Skiing, Gangnam style: South Korea's first skiing simulation centre has opened in central Seoul.
South Korea is a country obsessed with video games. This is evident in the number of PC bangs (internet cafes) found throughout Seoul and other major cities. In 2011, the Korean government passed the controversial ‘Shutdown Law‘, intended to curb gaming addiction among school children. Despite this, Korea’s gaming industry is showing no signs of decline. The industry brings in up to US$5 billion annually.
The country’s obsession with video games has bled into the sporting world. Sports simulation games are becoming increasingly popular throughout Korea, particularly ‘screen golf’ (which is now played at more than 7,500 centres nationwide). Affirming this trend is the recent opening of Korea’s first ski and snowboard simulation centre. Urban Slope, an authorised dealer of SkyTechSport, is located in central Seoul and houses five state-of-the-art snow sports simulators.
The simulators are designed to replicate all aspects of alpine skiing (minus the subzero temperatures, of course!). Users strap into genuine ski (or snowboard) boots—available for rental on-site. Computer-controlled motors generate vibrations and g-force effects. Visuals are displayed in 4K resolution on a panoramic screen.
Settings can be adjusted to accommodate varying levels of ability and experience. Serious racers might opt to train in icy conditions, for example. All aspects of the slope are customisable, from the quality of the snow to the frequency of any bumps or moguls. Users also have access to an abundance of data including speed, force, energy expenditure and edging angles.
Urban Slope is equipped with a range of simulator models, including the innovative President Lux Downhill Pro. On this particular machine, skiers have access to genuine championship courses from Sochi, Beaver Creek and PyeongChang. The technology was used by American athletes to train for Sochi 2014, such is the detail that went into replicating the slopes.
US-based SkyTechSport is the name behind this cutting-edge technology. The company went to great lengths to ensure the accuracy of the mock-ups. Coordinates were mapped using handheld GPS recorders and satellite data. This process required skiers to make multiple descents of each run, recorders in hand. Texture was added later, using drone footage as reference. Buildings, lifts, even trees and rocks were incorporated into the final product.
Of course, it’s not just Olympic athletes who stand to benefit from ‘screen skiing’. The applications for this technology are numerous—fitness training, race training, medical rehab, introductory ski lessons etc. But perhaps it’s the gaming aspect of skiing simulation that will attract most interest, particularly in Korea.