As South Korea counts down to Olympics, a ghost ski resort festers

GANSEOUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - The chairs of an abandoned ski lift sit on a barren, ghostly mountainside in South Korea; like gravestones for what was one a vibrant holiday resort.

As the country prepares to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in a raft of new sporting venues, the abandoned Alps Ski Resort, only around 100 kilometers (60 miles) away, stands in grim contrast, as the future of South Korea's new facilities remains uncertain.

SEE ALSO: North and South Korea agree to first joint Olympic team

Located close to the border with North Korea, the resort had been used for skiing since the period of Japan's colonial rule in the early 20th century and was South Korea's oldest when it closed its doors in 2006.

Its decline was caused by a drop in the number of people taking part in skiing, a phenomenon that has continued since the resort's closure.

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Abandoned Alps Ski Resort in South Korea
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Abandoned Alps Ski Resort in South Korea
Abandoned Alps Ski Resort is seen near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Ruined entrance of the abandoned Alps Ski Resort is seen near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
A reception desk of the abandoned Alps Ski Resort is seen near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
A poster of the snow-covered resort hangs on a wall at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
A chair, a broom and a hanger stand in the main hall of the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
A poster of the snow-covered resort hangs on a wall at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Staircase is seen at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
Broken fans lie on the ground at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
A ruined swimming pool is seen at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
Tableware lies on shelves at a restaurant of the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
An entrance of the Alps nightclub is seen at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
A ski lift tower is seen at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
A tourist map of Goseong hangs on a wall at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
Ski lift station and decommissioned ski lift chairs are seen at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
Light bulbs, bowls and plates lie on a windowsill at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
A Fischer ski lies in grass at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Decommissioned ski lift chairs are seen at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Ski lift chairs hang at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Toilets are piled up at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Pairs of skis are seen at an abandoned ski rental shop in front of the Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
An abandoned gas station stands near the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
Abandoned Alps Ski Resort is seen near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 16, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
An abandoned ski rental shop stands in front of the Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
Ski boots lie at an abandoned ski rental shop in front of the Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
An operation room for ski lifts is seen at the abandoned Alps Ski Resort located near the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas in Goseong, South Korea, January 17, 2018. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji 
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The number of South Koreans skiing has been on the decline since 2012 from its peak around 6.8 million in the 2011-2012 winter ski season, according to data from the Ski Resort Business Association of Korea.

In the 2016-2017 season around 4.8 million South Koreans took to the slopes.

Whether local or national government will bear the cost of maintaining the 14 venues for the Pyeongchang Olympics after the games finish, is a matter of some debate.

"We are making our point that (these facilities) should be managed by the state," Choi Moon-soon, the governor of Gangwon Province, which will host the 2018 Winter Olympics, told Reuters this week.

"(The) ski jump slope, for instance: this won't be used only by Gangwon and this will be barely used by anyone else except national athletes ... So we're asking those who will use to pay for it."

Whether South Korea's new and revamped Olympic venues will thrive, or face the same struggles that led to the Alps Ski Resort's closure remains to be seen.

But the tattered buildings and piles of rubbish, including dozens of discarded toilet bowls, that litter the resort's landscape are a reminder of the challenges the sport continues to face in South Korea.

(Writing by Mark Hanrahan in London; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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