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Ski Dubai

Ski Dubai

A writers' take on her first day back on skis—after a ten-year hiatus, and in the middle of the Arab desert.
By Margie Goldsmith
posted: 11/07/2011
ski dubai

It’s a hot and humid 92 degrees in Dubai as I head for the Mall of the Emirates, a 2,400,352-square-foot behemoth with the first indoor ski run in the Middle East, “Ski Dubai.” The huge dome offers five runs including the world’s first indoor black diamond run with a 200-foot drop.                                                                        

I haven’t skied in ten years, but it doesn’t matter if I make a fool of myself, because no one knows me here. I buy a 2-hour $40 ticket that includes ski jacket, snow pants, boots, socks (mine to keep), and skis. There are no other women or tourists in the co-ed locker room. Nearby, two men expertly stuff the skirts of their long white jelabas into their snow pants. I slip the outfit on over my clothes, then clomp to the escalator leading to the bottom of the run.

A revolving door opens into the huge cold (32 degrees F) ski dome. My outfit matches those of the few men skiing the slope, and I feel as though we’re the Dubai ski team. Except for the blueish light that makes me feel as though I’m inside a fridge, this resembles a normal ski slope.  I snap into my bindings and an Arab attendant directs me to the double chairlift. I watch a snowboarder carve graceful turns down the slope when I reach the lift’s mid-station.

An attendant calls out to me in Arabic. What have I done wrong? Now he’s screaming. Finally, he pantomimes that I should pull down the safety bar.

I look down from the top of the 1,300-foot black run and freeze. This is really steep and it’s been so long, I barely remember how to turn. There’s no way to get back on the chairlift. I’m stuck getting down the slope, even if it means sliding on my backside.

I start down slowly as two teenaged snowboarders fly past me. What if someone plows into me and I break a leg? What if they don’t speak English in the hospital?  Thirty-five years ago, when I was young, fearless and cocky, there wasn’t a run too steep or a bump too big.  Now, I’m terrified.  I take a deep breath and push off, traverse across and within seconds, am at the edge. I have no choice but to turn. I panic. My legs splay out in a snowplow, and I slide around to the opposite direction. Three Arab men fly past on skiis. Then two more. Everyone looks like an expert. I feel like an idiot.

I make snowplow turns until I have enough confidence to plant my pole and make a parallel turn. Yes! It’s all coming back. I pick up speed and don’t stop until I reach the midway station. From the glass windows in the restaurants overlooking the slope people are waving to me. Oh my God! I’m on display!  I give a feeble wave back.

After catching my breath, I start out again, I feel smoother, almost fluid, and I remember why I loved to ski. I get to the bottom of the slope, thinking about how I waited all last winter for it to become spring and summer so I could bike and run outdoors. Suddenly, I’m thrilled winter is almost here, because then I can tear off to the slopes – outdoors and much closer to home.

reviews of Ski Dubai Write a comment
Sounds like fun. The visibility to viewers reminds me of skating in front of Rockefeller Center in front of people in cafe laughing at all the newbies trying to stay vertical.
Ha! I had that exact same thing happen! I was at Ski Dubai this summer and got yelled at by the attendant to put the bar down on the chairlift. It's even in my video I took there: http://slopesource.com/2011/06/29/summer-skiing-in-the-desert/ That place was a trip. There's not much to the slope, but definitely something to the experience. I actually really enjoyed it. Sounds like it is successful as there are plans to build more indoor ski hills in other countries. It's definitely one of the better places I've ever visited inside a mall and feels awesome compared to the burning heat outside. Thanks, nice article. - Dave
I was just at Ski Dubai 3 weeks ago. Interesting experience. If you're a beginner, go when they open at 9am on Friday or Saturday (UAE weekend, their Sunday is our Monday). No one goes out before 10 or 11 am on weekends in UAE, so you'll have the place to yourself. I did and was able to 'rip' some big, fast turns before people started showing up. Lift ticket was 180 Dirham for 2 hours, or about $49, including everything. Lift is a Quad, not detachable. About 7 minutes per ride. Room for 10-20 smaller linked turns on the way down depending on your skiing style/speed. They had a couple rails and fun boxes on one side. The snow is actually pretty nice. Since it never sees melt/freeze cycles, it's much better groomed snow than I'm used to in New England. I think steepest section might be about 15 degrees, so not "really steep" for sure. I spoke to an Aussie girl who's been there 5 years and skis a couple times a week. She said they sometimes have a bump section, and have races a couple times a week as well. Would make a half-decent short NASTAR style race. Stay in Auris Boutique Hotel next to Mall of the Emirates. Incredibly nice, cheap, 1 and 2 bedroom suites with kitchen, living room etc. Was way less than $100/night booking on a travel website. Walk to Mall of Emirates in about 5 minutes; I could see the ski slope 'refrigerator' from my room. Cheers! Nate
An awesome experience and a temperature shock I would say of 44 Celsius difference! Watch your throat and enjoy skiing. The full review is here: http://www.skidubai.com/ski-dubai/advice/
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