Counterfeit Lifts in North Korea

In July 2011, South Korea won the 2018 Winter Olympics, beating out cities in France and Germany.  Almost immediately, North Korea announced plans to build its own ski resort called Masik Pass.  The plan required at least five lifts despite the lack of any lift manufacturers in Asia.

Masik Pass Trail Map
Masik Pass Trail Map.  All Photos from Uri Tours on Flickr.

Kim Jong Un’s government turned to the usual players, Doppelmayr and Poma.  Both refused to build the lifts, citing the international ban on selling luxury goods to the North.  Switzerland’s BMF agreed to a $7.7 million order but the Swiss government killed the deal.  Ironically, Switzerland is where Kim Jong Un went to private school in the early 1990s and where he learned to ski.

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Fast forward to today and Masik Pass is open and operating five lifts – two brand new quads, two doubles and a platter.  So how did they get them?  The first lift to be built turned out to be a used Stadeli double.  I am not sure where it came from but it likely wasn’t the US or Canada. The only Stadeli double removed in North America during the ten years prior to 2011 was at Brodie Mountain and was scrapped.  The late 1960s or early 1070s vintage Stadeli that ended up in North Korea likely came from Europe.  Kim Jong Un himself rode this lift to announce the resort’s opening although he never appeared on skis.

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By the second winter the resort had four brand new lifts that look to be Doppelmayr.  However they are not; the chairs and towers have no numbers and no logos.  From what I can tell these lifts were probably fabricated in China based off of genuine Doppelmayr lifts built there.  (Doppelmayr has supplied more than 40 lifts to China just since 2006.)  There are two long fixed grip quads and a shorter double at the summit.  The beginner area has a shiny new platter that looks like a very good Doppelmayr knockoff.  Everything on these counterfeit lifts looks just a little bit off, from the dangling wires to the crooked railings.  There are also no operator houses, no loading ramps and no signage.  I’m sure Doppelmayr knows by now that their designs have been stolen but there is little they can do in a country that defies international law.  It probably isn’t worth losing China’s growing business over four fake lifts.

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