Dubai Offers the Hottest Slopes in the Desert Heat
bash over sand dunes in four-wheel drives, capering on camels in the searing sun until their lips blister and peel. However, I sip a cappuccino in five-star comfort at the Kempinski Hotel as I descend in the lift to the lobby. An instant later, I glimpse the snowy trails of Ski Dubai. Not once, do I venture into the sizzling 110 degree Fahrenheit caldron of the middle-eastern desert.
I look around I see, jaunty Japanese women
in skimpy, summer frocks pose for photos
in front of a wide expanse of glass; their
huge grins glistening. On the other side
of Ski Dubai, children in snowsuits and
helmets fly down white inclines on inflatable
tubes. Skiers and snowboarders hover overhead
in chairlifts. They scrutinize flurry
fiends below, twirling acrobatically or
tumbling into undignified heaps and sprawls.
Though I enjoy the view of the expansive
glass domes that belong to the 12-acre
Mall of the Emirates the largest
shopping complex outside North America
my destination is on the other side of
the transparent divide in Ski Dubai. The
refrigerated realm of one of the world's
largest indoor snow resorts provokes my
curiosity. From the desert floor, a complex
network of cables raised the 4,000 tons
of cylinder-shaped stainless steel comprising
that makes up Ski Dubai. The shiny metal
tube dominates surrounding structures
and is visible for miles. Inside, 6,000
tons of artificial snow covers the man-made
ski runs to a depth of 18 inches.
I slip past the deserted St. Moritz Cafe
on the mall's ground floor and see men
in full-length white shirts and head gear
and veiled women swathed in black, chatting
animatedly. Their playful children romp
among the crowds. The excited children
shell out 60 dirhamsapproximately
$16 U.S. dollars a piece to toboggan
down man-made hills, build a snowman and
frolic on the Snow Park's climbing towers.
When I hit the slopes myself, I find a
barely meet the requirements necessary
to ski. I can link turns rarely, controlling
my speed by falling on my tush and stopping
safely only if latched on to stationary
objects. From time to time I can get off
a lift without careering out of control
and causing a pileup. I pay about $44
for a plastic keycard granting me two
hours on the hill, use of a locker, board,
boots, trousers and jacket.
Snow Pro the center's equipment
shop provides a full line of Burton
and Rossignol gear and garments for any
extras you might need. I purchase no-name
fleece gloves and a hat emblazoned with
the resort's logo. At almost $11 total,
they offer the cheapest possible warmth.
Dubai's Main Slope
Ski Dubai, women are slipping thickly-padded
black parkas over their dark clothes and
fleece hats over their headscarves. I
collect myself a wide board with bindings
that can be set easily to any stance angle.
I clamp myself into the plank on the marble
board looks fine," a voice says.
Mohammed Karami is an expert snowboarder
"But those boots. Forget them. You've
got to bring your own footwear here if
you want a good time."
I stare longingly at his new pair of Burton
Rulers. Mohammed has sliced the slopes
in his native country of Lebanon, as well
as Switzerland and Aspen, Colorado. He
rates Ski Dubai as a genuine boarding
experience not just an amusement park
novelty. His young sons donning their
helmets take lessons once a week.
a hot climate, you try to stay cool,"
Karami said. "Local people dream
about pine trees, ice and snow which
they have never seen. If you have enough
cash, you can manufacture the environment
for yourself. Most Emirates have a skating
rink. Now they have snowball fights and
According to Karami, the resort fits into
Dubai's overall plan to diversify and
become an international tourist destination
as well as a leading oil producer.
take it easy on those weak shoes,"
he says, as I limp to the entrance. I
am not reassured as my two hours on the
I ascend an escalator to a revolving door,
push it round. The frigid air devours
me. I enter an 87-yard-wide, 24,500-square
yard walk-in freezer. I shiver as the
T-shirt under my thin jacket is laughable.
The ski resort's lighting is subdued,
making it look like an ice cave at twilight.
Ski Dubai is so well-insulated that no
outside sounds intrude. I can barely make
out the muted echo of snow addicts calling
to each other in a variety of different
languages. They tear down the gradient,
clinking through the turnstile. The experts
ride a tow lift to the summit past patrons
munching on steaks at a nearby TGI Friday's.
I trail less talented skiers through a
gate onto the four-seat chairlift.
I share a bench with Debbie Pritchard,
13, and her friend, Adrienne Cook, 14,
who attend school in Al Ain. They say
they slice the snow at the Ski Dubai twice
never actually snowboarded anywhere else,"
Pritchard says. "I learned here and
this is where I practice. But I'm still
not very good."
We raise our planks quickly as the chairlift
reaches the first stop at the Avalanche
Cafe. Novices disembark here for a gentle
run down. We stay on and whip round a
sudden 90-degree curve headed for the
I've boarded at a few places in Scotland,"
Cook volunteers. "But I need a lot
more training too."
At the top, a smiling attendant slows
the lift down. I blunder down the gentle
runoff, remaining vertical. Buoyed by
my success and the girls' admission of
inexperience, I switch into showoff mode.
Ratcheting on my bindings, I dash to the
incline's edge and stop short. The trail,
at 430 yards long and 25 stories high,
is frightening for the faint-hearted.
On the right is a gradient designated
for experts only, the world's first indoor
black run. I meander left, determined
to show off my turning skills. For an
instant, I perform fine, my body weaving
from side to side like a sloppy samba
dancer. Then, before I know it, I find
myself face forward in the artificial
snow, arms flailing madly. The young girls
sail by snickering.
I'd take a closer look at the snow. Sure
does look real," I call unconvincingly
Subdued, but undamaged, I traverse the
wide slope at a more leisurely pace. At
the abrupt right turn near the Avalanche
Cafe, the incline levels off, causing
me to run out of momentum completely.
I frog hop futilely, but in the end, I
take my back foot out of the binding and
skate to the hill's lip.
Dubai Snowboarding Lessons
push off down the final 200 yards, discovering
some unpacked snow for my edges to grip.
On the right there are small moguls and
a tiny jump, while on my left, the bunny
hill beckons. I watch as beginners ride
up a gentle incline on a moveable walkway,
the ski instructors coaxing them down.
Directly in front, shutterbugs click photos
as skiers and boarders glide by. One aims
her camera in my direction and snaps.
As I stop, she dashes up and clamps a
plastic bracelet around my wrist. She
tells me it identifies my photo, which
I can purchase at Snow Pro.
Countless enjoyable runs later, my body
remains an icicle, though I totally warm
to the resort. Finally, as my two hours
run out, I push through the resort’s
revolving door back into the warmth.
Inside the mall, bargains beckon. Shoppers
flit from pillar to post, lured by dozens
of discount signs. Stroking my aching
shins, I dash into a sports shop hoping
to find comfortable board boots at a good
price. Outside, it's warm enough to fry
fish on my car's hood. But inside, I hunt
for my new winter gear. Not so odd perhaps.
Dubai — a moneyed magician
changes trails to sales in the wink of
Where to Stay
Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Barsha
United Arab Emirates
4 341 00 00
PO Box 26500
United Arab Emirates
+971 4 286 8239
Where to Dine
4 399 888
+971 4 346 1111
+971 6 555 4545
+971 4 341 3618