Ski Dubai bills itself as the world’s largest indoor ski hill with the first indoor black run. There are 5 different runs, the longest of which is 196 ft. It’s the only place in this desert country that is -1 degree C. For 210 dirhams (approx. US $58), you get a two-hour lift ticket, skis, boots, poles, disposable socks, ski pants, and a ski jacket. Gloves must be purchased separately (I think the cheapest pair were 10 dirhams), and helmets are only provided for children. A rather good deal, when compared to U.S. prices.
Knowing that such an opportunity might present itself, I’d packed my ski pants, my ski boot inserts, a woolen base layer shirt, and my own ski socks. There was no way I’d pass up this probably once-in-a-lifetime chance to ski in the desert, and I wanted as much of my own equipment as possible as the idea of wearing borrowed clothes kind of skeeved me out.
Ski Dubai is located in the lower level of Emirates Mall. A café called St. Moritz is just outside the entrance to the ski area and has a floor-to-ceiling glass wall so passers-by can watch the action on the slopes. There’s a ski store on the other side of the entrance. As I overheard someone say, “Guess they never have a chance at end-of-season sales.”
The lobby area of Ski Dubai is really well organized. Large signs hang over each of the counters, identifying each step of the process. There are three stations at each counter, so, though it wasn’t busy while I was there (it was the middle of a work day when I went), it looks as though they are well prepared to handle crowds. The staff were really friendly and helpful, always pointing me in the direction of the next correct counter.
Lift tickets are the hard pass, card types that also got you access to a locker in the changing room. Those rooms were very large and clean, the lockers had plenty of room for my shoes and bag that I had my street clothes in. Rental boots were Atomic B-Techs. They looked to be in pretty good shape, although I did have a problem buckling one of the boots. I couldn't get the top buckle to reach the latch, and the micro adjuster didn't work on it when I tried to give it more room. The skis were Rossi Roc X’s. The sizes available ranged from 150 – 180. I completely forgot to check the sidecut measurements. There were techs who adjusted the DIN settings, some asking skiers to step on a scale first.
With all my equipment gathered up, I headed off to the slopes. These are through turnstiles, where your ticket is activated, and up a set of escalators that admonish you to lift your skis up so they don’t get caught. Racks of poles are at the top with a large range of sizes. Through a large revolving door, and I am finally on the slopes.
First thing I notice is it’s cold in here!! No spring skiing weather in Dubai! Also, it's a bit foggy, and the lights a bit flat. Music pumps from overhead speakers. I’m already starting to regret not getting some gloves and wishing for a pair of leggings. I click in to my skis and start to pole my way towards the lift. Right away, I notice that the skis could use a good waxing. They are sticking a little bit. The snow has the standard consistancy of manmade. After passing through another turnstile that reads my ticket through the jacket sleeve pocket and gives a read-out of how many minutes are left on my ticket, I board the quad lift. And promptly cause a bit of a ruckus. For a place that doesn’t worry about helmets, they sure do get excited when I don’t think to lower the safety bar on my chair.
There are two slopes that are serviced by the quad lift. To the right of the left is labeled as a blue run and is probably the longest run there. Personally, I think it’s closer to a green. There’s a mid-hill exit on the lift for this run. It’s wide and is really a gentle slope. There’s one section that is a bit steeper, but it’s intended to give skiers enough speed to get across the flat section I keep forgetting about and end up poling across more than once. It’s in that little dip that snow collects, and my skis get bogged down a bit, no matter how much speed I carry across it. After that, there’s another gentle slope down to another dip that causes me to lurch a bit as my skis get bogged down again, before a final drop in to the lift area. This run also features two rails.
To the left of the lift is the black run. It’s also set up as a slalom run. This is much more narrow and has steeper sections than the other run. The snow there is also a bit more hard-packed in areas. I don’t know that it can really be considered a black run, but it is narrow, steep, and twisty. It might be closer to a difficult blue. The ski instructors opened the slalom run at one point, and anyone was welcome to have a go at it for time. One little kid was really rather good! :
After an hour, I started to regret my lack of gloves, hat, and warm leggings under my ski pants as I was getting chilled. I’d had my fun and decided to go as I didn’t want to run the risk of catching a cold as I don’t return to the States for another two weeks.
Most of the other people on the slopes were Brits, Aussie, or French, from what I could tell by accents. There are supposed to be three other slopes, but none were as big as the blue and black. I think the school hill, tube park, and one other small run were included in the count. I didn’t get a good look at any of those. Lessons are available, and I saw a few classes going on. There were three photographers around, snapping people as they came down the slope. For the sheer novelty, I did buy the photo one took of me as I came to a hockey stop in the lift approach area.
If you have the opportunity to come to the UAE, I highly recommend making a side trip to Ski Dubai. It’s a well-run operation and a great deal. I had a blast and would do it again in a heartbeat. I’m trying to post photos, but the connection I have right now is really slow and not free. Once I am able to get photos online, I’ll update this TR. Let me know if you have any questions.