OPENING in time for UAE National Day at the beginning of December will be the Middle East’s first indoor ski slope, Ski Dubai, at the Mall of the Emirates on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road.
The snow is already being made, just as it is in nature, using the technology of the world-renowned Acer Snowmec system.
“Ski Dubai’s indoor slope is not the first snowdrome in the world, nor the longest, but it’s the best by far because of the technology that allows us to maintain and /or change the quality of snow if we wish,” said Francois de Montaudouin, CEO MAF Holdings, which owns and operates the Mall of the Emirates. The snow is made in the same way as in nature and looks, feels and tastes just like “wild snow”. Basically liquid water is atomised to create a cloud inside the building, this cloud is then “sprinkled” with minuscule hard ice particles which allow snow crystals to form and fall out of the cloud. This is normally only done at night.
The ski offering includes five different slopes of varying difficulty and length, the longest being 400 m. Customers can take ski lessons, snowboard or just walk in a snow park. Alternatively, customers can simply order a warm coffee at one of two cafés.
In total, an area of 22,500 sq m, the size of three football fields, is covered with real snow all year round.
An hour’s pass to the snow park is worth Dh40, and includes jacket, mittens, boots, trousers, disposable socks and helmets for children. During normal operating hours, the temperature inside the building will be kept between -1 and -2 degrees Centigrade but will be dropped to -8 degrees Centigrade at night when the slope is closed to facilitate the making of fresh snow. Fresh snow will be made every day.
“Right now, we’re running the snow-making system all day and are making around 120 tonnes of fresh snow every 24 hours,” said Phil Taylor, chief executive of Ski Dubai. “Shortly, there will be enough snow in Ski Dubai to accommodate the most advanced skier as well as children playing in the park.”
Ski Dubai is a component of Mall of the Emirates, the unique retail and leisure resort opened by MAF Investments. With an estimated total of 300 stores, the mall claims the largest selection of international brands in the Middle East. Other components of its entertainment offering are Magic Planet, with worldwide recognised rides, a cinema, a theatre and arts centre and several restaurants. It will also have a five-star Kempinski hotel opening in the first quarter of 2006. Two floors of hotel suites will have views of the ski slope.
When operational, Ski Dubai will hold over 6,000 tonnes of snow at any given time and will take its place in the history books as the third largest indoor snow dome in the world, boasting such features as a 400 m ski run, a permanent 3.5 m radius quarter pipe for stunts, a snowboarding park, five multi-directional slopes with varying slope gradients, including a black run, and the world’s largest indoor snow play area. Environmentally-concerned consumers might appreciate the slope’s energy efficient system, where electrical costs make up a mere 10 per cent of total operations costs. The snow that is removed from the slopes is used to cool the mall’s air-conditioning units and to irrigate its gardens.
By KEITH J FERNANDEZ