Ski Dubai: Hitting the Slopes in the Desert

categories: middle east travel

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When I first heard about Ski Dubai after it opened in 2005, I was totally intrigued.  How could someone build an indoor snow skiing resort in the desert?  Over the years, I have been impressed by news articles and TV specials I have seen on the building of the resort.   Recently when I had the opportunity to travel to Qatar for an educational conference, I knew that a side trip to Dubai would be a part of that experience, and I knew that visiting Ski Dubai would be a major reason for making that trip.

Part of the appeal of the ski resort is the opportunity for visitors to experience an extreme temperature and climate that cannot be found anywhere near the deserts of Dubai.   On the day I visited Ski Dubai with my family, we spent the day cooling off from the 100 degree Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) heat in the Aquaventure Water Park at the Atlantis Palm Hotel.  In a few short miles, we transitioned from a sweltering, sandy beach to frosty, snowy slopes.

Ski Dubai is actually located inside the Mall of the Emirates.  The ski resort occupies an amazing 22,500 square meters and features five slopes.  The advertisements boast a range of slopes from beginner to black diamond, but I found that most of the trails were for beginners, with one slope having an intermediate pitch.  Even though smaller, the busiest part of the attraction is the 3000 square meter Snow Park at the base of the slopes that features sled and toboggan runs, a body slide, climbing towers, an ice cave, a penguin exhibition, and a hill where patrons can get inside a giant ball and roll down.   Visitors to the Snow Park can also ride the ski lift up and back down the ski slope.  It appeared to me that most people go to Ski Dubai to visit the Snow Park and play in the snow.  On the night I skied, almost 90% of the patrons were visiting the Snow Park.  Another part of the fun of Ski Dubai is that mall patrons can watch the skiers through many large windows.  There are also restaurants such as the St. Moritz Cafe and TGIFridays on the side of the slopes that look out over the skiing and Snow Park areas.

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When we arrived at Ski Dubai our first task was to decide on the type of experience we wanted.  There are many different options and combinations to choose from that include skiing, snowboarding, lessons, or just playing in the snow.  We came to ski so we chose the option that gave us two hours on the slopes.  This turned out to be plenty of time since the two hours began when we entered the slopes and did not include our preparation time.  The two hour skiing package was actually one of the cheapest options and cost 200 Dirhams ($55) per person.  Each of us received a ski jacket, snow pants, ski boots, boot socks, skis, and poles.  The only extra cost we added was a small fee of 40 Dirhams ($12) for a locker rental with 20 Dirhams refundable when we returned our ticket cards. There lockers are really safe, and they are highly recommended. Click here on oppbevaraingsskab hhl to see which ones are the best for you. Two things not included in the package were hats and gloves.  Gloves are a must.  You can either purchase a pair at Ski Dubai or bring your own.  A ski hat is a nice addition, but most patrons would be able to last two hours without one.  We had learned ahead of time that gloves and hats were not included in the admission price, so we came prepared with both.

The clothing and fitting process took a while to navigate.  We spent a good 45 minutes getting our clothing, boots, skis, and bindings adjusted.  It was a little less organized than most ski resorts, but tolerable since most people were not getting ski equipment.  The resort features separate changing rooms for men and women or a common area that can be used by both.  All lockers are in the common changing room area.  We wore long pants and shirts and felt very comfortable slipping on our ski pants and jackets in the common changing area.  We were also able to easily find a locker where we could stuff all our non-skiing items.

When we first entered the cold zone, it did not feel too severe.  Outside the temperature was around 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) so the plunge into 28 degrees Fahrenheit (-2 degrees Celsius) actually felt refreshing.  It took almost an hour before we began to feel cold, and after two hours we were very cold.

Skiers and snowboarders are taken to the top of the mountain by a quad lift or tow line.  Most of the time, we rode the quad chair lift so we could rest in between ski runs and talk to some of the other patrons. The quad lift chair was shared with Snow Park visitors so sometimes there was a short wait.  A few times we used the tow line because it was much faster.  In fact, the rope tow turned out to be a thrilling ride in itself!  There was also an automated arm band check-in system that monitored each trip we made up the mountain.  It also told us how much time we had remaining to ski.

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Even though Ski Dubai advertises 5 trails, there are essentially two quarter mile long parallel ski slopes from top to bottom.  In the middle, the slopes make a 90 degree turn.  Skiers and snowboarders can either get off at the halfway point or ride to the top.  There is also a small eatery and warming hut at the halfway point called the Avalanche Cafe.  If you enjoy snowboarding, there is a snowboard park at the very top of the slopes.

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How was the skiing?  Not bad.  I regularly ski in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, and I make occasional journeys to Vermont and Upstate New York.  This was in no way anything like Vermont skiing, but it was similar to the skiing I have experienced in the Poconos.  The trails had a good layer of groomed packed powder and were not icy.  One trail was used mostly by beginners, but the other had a nice intermediate pitch to it.  It was rarely used.  I made most of my runs on the intermediate side and thoroughly enjoyed speeding down the mountain for a few precious seconds.  In all I made 14 runs down the mountain in around 2 hours.

I have to confess, that I thoroughly loved Ski Dubai.  My only tiny disappointment was that they did not sell a ski pin or patch for me to add to my collection of ski resorts I have visited in the past.

If you are visiting Dubai and enjoy skiing or snowboarding in any way, shape, or form, you must try Ski Dubai.  It is a unique experience that should not be passed up.

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by Barry Kramer

Barry S. Kramer is an elementary educator who developed a love of travel after attending an educational technology conference in Beijing in the year 2000. Since then he has returned to China eight times to experience many popular attractions, national parks, and out of the way places often not visited by Westerners. He has also traveled to Russia, Japan, Tibet, northern Africa, Europe, the Middle East, as well as many places in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. His travel partners are his wife, Liping, and his daughters, Liz and Jessica.



One Response to “Ski Dubai: Hitting the Slopes in the Desert”

GaryWinter

Says:

It was an indeed a positive shocking experience and definitely recommended for every visitor. The contrast between the 40+ Celsius outside and the -4 in the ski area is blasting. Watch your throat however. The complete review is here http://www.skidubai.com/ski-dubai/advice/

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