One of the world’s biggest shopping malls, Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates, has a unique attraction. Ski Dubai is an indoor downhill ski area.
The temperature feels cold, and the snow looks a bit icy. You can see puffs of breath as skiers turn to talk to each other on the lift line. The climate estimate was right on the money, 30 degrees – that’s Celsius, not Fahrenheit. Bright blue skies. Another heatwave. The skiers hop on the lift and rise into the mist.
What is going on here?
Ski Dubai: Indoor Downhill Skiing in the Middle Eastern Desert
I am standing at the base of Ski Dubai, a downhill ski area. More specifically, it is a downhill ski area located inside a shopping mall. And the shopping mall is located in the middle of downtown Dubai, a desert city-state in the United Arab Emirates. Outside, the sun’s rays sizzle and dance in the heat. Inside, the temperature is kept between -1 and -2 degrees Celsius. Snow-makers generate snow at night, and a high-tech insulation system keeps the blazing desert sun outside and the cool icy air inside.
Ski Dubai is the Mall of the Emirates’ chief attraction, one of the world’s largest shopping malls. It is a popular novelty attraction for tourists to Dubai, this city of architectural impossibilities come to life. It is a city where anything, even a ski slope in the desert, seems possible.
Ski Dubai is also a popular weekend activity for local families. I watch as girls wearing headscarves and ski pants throw snowballs at each other. If they don’t leave their homeland — as many young girls here do not — this is the only place they will ever feel the snow.
Ski Dubai Stats
Ski Dubai features the world’s only indoor black diamond run (“black diamond,” of course, being a relative concept: This particular slope might not cut, say, Mad River Glen, Aspen, or Zermatt).
- 85 meters vertical elevation
- 80 meters wide
- The longest run is 400 meters long
- Five runs, ranging from green to black.
- One quad lift, one rope tow, magic carpets for beginners.
- Quarter pipe and freestyle terrain park for snowboarders
In short, it’s not unlike some of the small, family-friendly “feeder” areas in the United States and Canada. There’s also a snow park, which at 3,000 square meters, is billed as the world’s largest indoor snow park. It has toboggan hills, bobsled tubing, a snow cavern, an observation tower over the main ski slope, and a snow play area.
Lift tickets include ski and clothing rentals. However, you have to buy your hats and gloves. Lessons are available.
And of course, after you’ve worked up an appetite on the slopes of Ski Dubai, you can enjoy either the ski area cafes or the Mall’s food court.
Where you can order such not-so-typical ski area fare as baba ghanouj, pita, and hummus, and enjoy it while watching the other skiers sliding down the slopes.