Ski Dubai: frost, skiing and powdery snow in the Arabian Desert

Esquiando en Ski Dubai

Chairlifts, snowshoes and penguins in the middle of the Arabian Desert. Is it a mirage? Nope! It’s the Dubai Ski Resort.

This is the view of Ski Dubai from a helicopter (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

This is the view of Ski Dubai from a helicopter (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

It’s the world’s second largest indoor ski resort, located at the heart of Dubai, the ultra-modern and cosmopolitan city emerging between the sands of the Arabian desert and the waters of the Persian Gulf. It features a mount of almost 100 metres in height and 80 metres wide, and two 400-metre-long slopes. These are the numbers for Ski Dubai, but we’ll tell you all about our experience of it on skis.

Main entrance to Ski Dubai (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

Main entrance to Ski Dubai (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

Dubai, an emerging leisure destination

Dubai has one of the most difficult climates in the world. The summers are scorching, at 40 °C in the day and only 10 degrees less at night, and with real-feel temperatures sometimes approaching 50°C. It’s nuts! Along with this, the Dubaians live their lives in the gigantic shopping centres of the city, built in the middle of the first decade of the 2000s. In these shopping centres you can find anything: clothing stores, supermarkets, restaurants, miles of shopping galleries, internal taxi services, large freshwater and saltwater aquariums, a zoo, cinemas, amusement parks, a medical centre, hotels, a nightclub, a theatre, an ice rink to play hockey or to skate, and a ski resort – because why not? In Dubai, if you have an idea, money and a business plan, there’s a site and room for anything.

The Mall of the Emirates, at nearly 260,000 square metres after its last expansion, is one of the 5 largest shopping centres in the world. One of the attractions of this shopping centre, even more luxurious with its own underground stop, is Ski Dubai, its indoor ski slope. Until June 2017 it boasted the title of the largest indoor snow resort world-wide, but Harbin Wanda Ski Resort in booming China opened just a year ago and won the title. We’ll see how long that lasts!

Renting equipment from the efficient service at the foot of the slopes (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

Renting equipment from the efficient service at the foot of the slopes (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

We skied in Ski Dubai last Sunday, June 10th, and this was our experience on skis.

This is what Ski Dubai is like

The indoor ski centre is almost 100 metres tall, 80 metres wide and has two slopes, or paths, 400 metres in length in the form of an arch. From its base there is a 4-seat chairlift and a ski-lift, both with a continuous trajectory adapting to the arch shape of this giant icebox.

From the foot of the slopes there’s also a conveyor belt reaching the middle level, near the Ice Bar – a restaurant including a panoramic terrace in the centre of the slope and in the curve of the gigantic hangar. The Avalanche Bar divides the mini ski station into two large paths and two sections of slopes with different inclinations, in the curve of the “icebox”. Unfortunately we couldn’t visit the bar because it was closed for Ramadan when we were there. At the foot of the slopes you can find a snow park for tubing and even a penguin area!

Base or foot of slopes of Ski Dubai (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

Base or foot of slopes of Ski Dubai (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

On a side note, Ski Dubai, like any other proud ski station, has a ski club, a competition team, a snow garden, a ski and snowboard school, stores for renting and selling equipment, a calendar of events and social races. There are also snow-loving customers with annual passes for skiing and snowboarding on the slopes.

Snow in an indoor centre

The snow on the slopes at Ski Dubai is spread every night. The temperatures in the resort vary between -2 and -3°C, which is a real thermal dip compared to outside temperatures.

When it comes to the quality of the snow, we have to admit that it’s powdery which is somewhat dense and a matte white. We don’t know if it’s the artificial lighting or because it’s rarely refreshed. In any case, it’s fantastic snow for practice our favourite sport on technical level slopes, between green and blue, with the extra treat of some technically “red” slopes. And there’s even a snow park for extra fun, with different sections and even Big Air. What more could you ask for?

Looking at the foot of the slope. In the background, the hotel with rooms overlooking Ski Dubai (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

Looking at the foot of the slope. In the background, the hotel with rooms overlooking Ski Dubai (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

It’s helpful to know that…

To ski in Ski Dubai, you don’t need anything other than the desire to do so. At the base of the station there’s a store for renting and buying equipment and a ticketing service. They rent absolutely everything, except for gloves, which you have to buy separately or as part of any current pack offer which includes them as a gift.

The store has trousers, jackets, skis, snowboards, helmets and sticks to sell or rent. No need for a mask or glasses, as the sun in Ski Dubai is conspicuously absent due to being a giant hangar-icebox.

Snowboarders at Ski Dubai (Photo: Ivan Sanz)

Snowboarders at Ski Dubai (Photo: Ivan Sanz)

Snowboarders at Ski Dubai

What about prices?

In our impassioned visit to Ski Dubai we were offered the Ramadan pass pack, which for approximately 75 euros per person included a ski pass for two hours of skiing – enough to practice our technique and do some skiing – plus access to the other activities at the snow park and complete equipment for skiing.

We do suggest, however, that you wear long-sleeved shirts under the snow jacket that you can rent at the store. With only a t-shirt you’ll get cold, because the outer-layer jacket closes with buttons instead of a zipper.

In Ski Dubai there’s a snow park and even Big Air (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

In Ski Dubai there’s a snow park and even Big Air (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

What we liked most

To finish and to conclude, we’ll give you four details of our experience in Ski Dubai that caught our attention.

  1. The main ski lift, a 4-seat chairlift, is not supported from below but directly by the roof, and it curves.
  2. We were pleasantly surprised to see a group of Dubaian children making their first steps on skis with the guidance of the instructors of the resort school.
  3. We were even more surprised to see a group of boys slaloming and training for the competition, and with the same or greater technicality of some skiers in the Alps and the Pyrenees.
  4. A hotel in the commercial centre with rooms with large windows enjoying direct views of the resort is something that still seems like a mirage. Perhaps it was the influence of the desert on our subconscious? Or the preview of a white week pack in Ski Dubai?
Skiing close to the Ice Avalanche Bar (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

Skiing close to the Ice Avalanche Bar (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

Suggestions in the snow

Although I don’t like to be negatively critical in my visits to ski resorts, I do think it’s necessary to make some suggestions for improvement. And I will raise it in the form of a question from my lack of knowledge of the technical operation of an indoor ski centre. Why, instead of doing indoor skiing in an opaque-walled hangar, can’t we do the same thing with at least one wall – behind the sun if that’s a problem – made up of large windows?

I’m sure that the final experience would be more pleasant and at the same time it would be enticing to the thousands of visitors that circulate outside the mall.

Learning to ski in Ski Dubai (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

Learning to ski in Ski Dubai (Photo: Ivan Sanz).

And in conclusion

In short, the experience at Ski Dubai Resort was exciting. You almost certainly won’t just go to Dubai to ski, but we can say that the indoor ski centre is a great excuse for a stopover in this city on the way to or back from some distant destination. If you are skiers, don’t miss the opportunity to visit!

Hold onto the details with the Skitude App

Our Ski Dubai photo album made with the Skitude app: www.skitude.com

More information: www.theplaymania.com/skidubai

Find Ski Dubai here: www.malloftheemirates.com

 In the Ski session in Ski Dubai I couldn’t resist a selfie (Photo: Ivan Sanz)

In the Ski session in Ski Dubai I couldn’t resist a selfie (Photo: Ivan Sanz)

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