With the PyeongChang Winter Olympics over on Sunday, fans of winter sports may wonder where to turn for now. Luckily for ski and snowboard fans, another international competition is coming up in the former Olympic host city in March ― the oldest and biggest of its kind in South Korea, brought into being by an inspired local monk.
The Dalma Open Snow Festival, with the term possibly confused with the religious term “Dharma” from Hinduism or Buddhism, will be held on Mar. 1-2 at Phoenix Snow Park in Gangwon Province. The annual competition, the 15th, will be held where the PyeongChang Olympics’ snowboard and ski action took place.
Amateur and professional freestyle skiers and snowboarders from South Korea and overseas may compete. Registration closes today, Feb. 1.
The athletes can compete in the half-pipe, parallel giant slalom and hike-up style jam, in which competitors show everything they have to offer in one half-pipe jump. Athletes from more than three countries will also compete for the FIS Asia Cup, a half-pipe event for competitors registered with the International Ski Federation.
The festival attributes its success to the enthusiasm of ski and snowboard aspirants aiming to compete at the Olympics, and to the support of many monks.
Before the PyeongChang Olympics, the festival organizer and sponsors such as Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and Korea Ski Association decided to make this year’s tournament the biggest yet as a fitting follow-up to the Winter Games. Organizers added the parallel giant slalom, the FIS Asia Cup and total prize money of 100 million won ($93,000), half for competition winners and half for raffles.
About 150 athletes competed in last year’s festival.
The man behind the festival is Monk Hosan, 53, from Suguksa Temple in Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul, who has been a snowboarder since 1995, earning the nickname “the snowboarding monk.”
“When I was serving at Temple Bongsunsa in Namyangju, I was asked by a ski resort nearby to hold a rite at the site to prevent the rising number of accidents there,” the monk said, reminiscing about how he started snowboarding. “The resort, as a token of appreciation, allowed me to use their facility for free. Then I got my hands on some snowboards.”
The monk, who wears his gray garments even when snowboarding, worked hard to get along with other young snowboarders. He said it was not easy at first, but he won them over by buying lots of hamburgers and jjajangmyeon for them.
“I listened to them with an open heart and they spoke to me with open hearts,” he said.
The first Dalma Open took place after the young snowboarders kept asking the monk to prepare a snowboarding competition for them. He asked for funds from other monks and managed to raise 10 million won, which he used as prize money for the first event in 2003. The youngsters came up with the event’s official title.
“I never intended to make it an annual event,” the monk said. “But the kids kept coming back for more festivals. I got hooked by them.”
The monk also founded the Snowboard Dalma team in 2003 and taught children the sport. Lee Sang-ho ― who won silver for South Korea at the men’s parallel giant slalom at the PyeongChang Olympics on Feb. 24 ― and other national players like Kweon Lee-jun, Jeong Hae-rim and Kwon Sunoo, learned in the team.
“Buddhism is not only inside mountains,” the monk told Yonhap last year. “Young, potential Buddhists are everywhere from sports to entertainment and culture. We need to reach out to them with true sincerity in our hearts.”