If you like being outdoors, Dubai is an amazing city to visit. You can play golf, go kite-surfing, scuba dive, and go “dune-bashing” in the desert.
Or you can just sit on the beach.
But Dubai has a problem. For about 5 months of the year, being outdoors during the day can be a miserable experience. It’s hot and humid, easily over 37 degrees Celsius and sometimes closer to 43.
The city — which is big on tourism — has an answer to that: Shopping malls. Dubai has the biggest, flashiest, most over-the-top shopping malls in the world.
But I hate shopping malls. They’re exhausting and even when you have something you need to buy, the crowds, parking and long walks are a pain. Unless maybe you’re a teenager.
I travel to Dubai a lot, and I try to stay away from the malls. But when I was there last month, I decided I would make one exception…because I wanted to do something touristy and write about it for Business Insider. And yes, it was 37 degrees during the day so I was not about to hop on a boat or drive into the desert.
I spent a couple of hours at Ski Dubai, an indoor mountainside-themed snow park in the Mall of the Emirates. Ski Dubai has been around for just over a decade but it’s still not the kind of place you come across just anywhere in the world. And, for less than $100, it is an amazing.
It was a bright and sunny day, and already the temperature was climbing fast. This is before 9:30 in the morning!
Luckily for me the Mall of Emirates isn't far from where I was staying so it was a quick trip on the highway.
But a few tourists were already milling around. The winter wonderland makes for a great backdrop even if you don't go in.
But I was going in. Because of the hour (10:00 a.m.) it was still quiet, which was great. Ski Dubai gets one million visitors a year, so definitely go early and enjoy it while it's still empty.
You can bring your own snow pants, but who takes snow pants to the desert? Ski Dubai gives you socks, gloves, and a jacket and pants to pull over your clothes.
Like this. Over my clothes (khakis and a long sleeve shirt) this was enough to keep me warm. It's about -3 degrees inside, but of course there's no wind chill.
Next its time to pick out your board (or skis) using this touch screen. It asks you about everything from your nationality, to....
...the slope itself. Luckily the key card fits nicely in a zipper pocket on your shoulder so all you have to do is walk past the turnstile.
...and into the snow. Right away it feels like a grey winter day. Ski Dubai's spokeswoman said the park depends on insulation to keep it feeling and looking like this, using the same amount of energy as an average supermarket. (Still, probably a very big supermarket).
It's a little surreal up there. I felt like Jim Carrey's character in the 'Truman Show' when he reaches the end of the movie set.
But that snow is real! I tried packing a snowball, but it's too powdery. They make snow every night, and recycle water to do so. (So don't eat it). Ski Dubai also redistributes unused electrical voltage to its power supply. But lets be honest here. If you're super concerned about the environment, then this probably isn't for you.
The same is true if you're going to be a snob about your boarding ability. Don't go there and complain about how it wasn't challenging enough. It's for fun, and most people there -- like this couple visiting from Japan -- had a great time.
Not everyone is a tourist. These kids live in Dubai. I have a friend who takes his kids there before any skiing holiday, so not a single day in the Alps is wasted.
There's also a lot for non-skiers to do. A little while later the chair lift was full of people just going for a ride. Remember there's never any snow in the UAE, or pretty much anywhere near it.
After a couple of hours, I was ready to go. It was getting crowded and a handful of runs were enough. It's an amazing experience, but if you're an experience skier you've got to remember...this is NOT a real mountain.
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