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Dalma Open International Snowboarding Competition Founded by Korean Buddhist Monk Enters its 15th Year

Ven. Hosan shows his skills during the half-pipe event of the 5th Dalma Open in 2007. From
Ven. Hosan shows his skills during the half-pipe event of the 5th Dalma Open in 2007. From

The 15th Dalma Open Snow Festival, the oldest and the largest snowboarding competition in South Korea, was held from 1–2 March at the PyeongChang Phoenix Park, which just days earlier had hosted the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Founded in 2003, the Dalma Open Snow Festival is an annual international snowboarding competition, and the brainchild of what some might consider an unusual snowboarding legend: Ven. Hosan, a Korean Buddhist monk. The name “Dalma,” which sounds very similar to the English word Dharma when pronounced in Korean, was chosen by its participants. (The Korean word for Dharma is 법 or Beop.)

From its humble beginnings, the Dalma Open has grown in reputation and popularity and is now supported by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism—a school of Seon Buddhism and South Korea’s largest Buddhist tradition, along with the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism, the national Sports Council, and the Korea Ski Association.

The annual competition is open to participants from all countries, who can compete in the half-pipe, parallel giant slalom, and the hike-up style jam—a part of the competition in which participants show their skills in one half-pipe jump. The event has become a recognized international contest, and this year participants could earn points for the International Ski Federation (FIS). The organizers of this year’s competition sought to sustain the spirit of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, organizing the biggest Dalma Open to date, with prize money of 100 million won (US$93,660) to be divided among the winners.

“We are holding the 15th Dalma Open Snowboard Championship this year.” Ven. Hosan said in an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily newspaper. National snowboarders were born through this competition, and they made it to the PyeongChang Olympics this year.” 

Over the years, the competition has become an incubator for many successful Korean snowboarders. Of the 12 snowboarders representing South Korea in this year’s winter Olympics, seven once trained with the Dalma Open team, including Lee Sang-Ho, who won a silver medal in the parallel giant slalom this year.

Ven. Hosan, 53, now the chief monk of Suguk Temple in Eunpyeong-gu, northern Seoul, first came into contact with snowboarding in 1995. “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 venerable told The Korea Times. “The resort, as a token of appreciation, allowed me to use their facility for free. Then I got my hands on some snowboards.”

Ven. Hosan, who still wears his grey monastic robes when snowboarding, quickly fell in love with the sport. He met many young snowboarders at the resort and tried hard to fit in. At first the other snowboarders were reluctant to accept him, but, according to the venerable, he managed to win them over in the end by treating them to hamburgers and  jjajangmyeon (a Korean Chinese noodle dish with black bean sauce).

Ven. Hosan was inspired to organize the first Dalma Open after the young snowboarders asked him to organize a competition for them. He managed to raise 10 million won (US$9,400) for the prize money, and organized the first competition in 2003. “I never intended to make it an annual event,” he recalled. “But the kids kept coming back for more festivals. I got hooked by them.” (The Korea Times)

“Buddhism is not only inside mountains,” Ven. Hosan stated. “Young, potential Buddhists are everywhere from sports to entertainment and culture. We need to reach out to them with true sincerity in our hearts.” (The Korea Times)

See more

Dalma Open
The 15th “Dalma Open Snow Festival” takes place (Korea JoongAng Daily)
우리나라 최대 스노보드 대회는 ‘스님’이 열기 시작했다 | 여사김정숙 (YouTube)
PyeongChang fever not over? Check out ‘Dalma Open’ (The Korea Times)

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