No matter how long you’ve lived in Dubai, there’s something surreal about putting on more clothes when you go inside, and swapping shorts and flip flops for snowsuits is certainly no exception. But as the doors slide open into Ski Dubai’s ice cavern, boy, are we grateful for those extra padded layers.
To say it’s a touch chilly would be an understatement of polar bear proportions. Ski Dubai’s total area of 22,500 square metres is packed with more than 6,000 tonnes of real snow, made fresh every night when 27 snow guns blast pure, chilled water onto the freezing slopes. Five-metre-thick walls and 100km of cooling underground pipes keep the area at sub-zero temperatures.
The colour-changing dragon ice sculpture is given a cursory ‘oooh’ as we head speedily for the Snow Park itself, where my four-year-old playdate, a snowball-thrower extraordinaire in her native northern England, is keen to score some early target practice. In no time at all we’re both soaking wet as well as cold, but never mind, this is all adding to the authenticity of the experience. Top tip for parents: If you’re of the age where you feel the cold, get sledging. Dragging a small person around on a piece of plastic for five minutes is a sure-fire way to thaw out.
With the colour restored to our cheeks, we grab a polystyrene luge each and launch ourselves off the bobsled – a twin-track ice tunnel that looks a tad treacherous from the top, but holds no fear for our little ice queen. One of the younger park guests – only kids aged three and over are admitted – she takes to the cool runnings like a true Jamaican, barely hanging on and shrieking with delight all the way. Emboldened with adrenaline, we give the tiny toboggan slide a miss and move swifly to the tubing – careering down a 50-metre slope in an oversized rubber ring. It’s pretty fast, this one, and you can see the relief in the faces of grown-ups when they reach the bottom, slightly dizzy but in one piece.
So after around 90 minutes in the Snow Park, how did we feel? Exhausted, exhilarated, with frozen toes and noses like icicles? Yes. More festive? A little.
Too early for the decorations and tinsel, we left with another souvenir: the sniffles – it really is freezing in there. Snowsuits, boots and socks are included in the entry fee, but we recommend that you take along an extra pair of socks and a long-sleeved top. You’ll need to bring your own hat and gloves, or buy them from the snow shop in the entrance area.
Lydia, aged four-and-a-half, visiting from England
What did you think of the Snow Park, did you enjoy it?
It’s brilliant! We were hot then cold then hot again and I got to wear my new hat and scarf and gloves. They’re stripey and sparkly.
They’re very pretty. What was your favourite thing at the Park?
The bobsled. No! The rubber loops (tubing). They were both really, really, REALLY good. My auntie was a scaredy cat but I wasn’t frightened at all. On the rubber loops the man did spinnies and I screamed, but I was brave because I’m four.
Would you come back again?
Yes please. Can we come back tomorrow? I want to throw more snowballs and build a snowman. But we’ll have to wait until there’s more snow.
How do you think they make the snow in the desert?
I don’t know. But I think they make it with water. They put lots of water in a big freezer that’s 20 metres tall and it makes snow.
So, do you feel Christmassy after being at the Snow Park?
No silly! Father Christmas doesn’t come for… [starts counting on fingers]… loads more sleeps. But it was cold like Christmas and I had hot chocolate afterwards.
Ski Dubai Snow Park (04 409 9000), Mall of the Emirates. Entrance costs Dhs85 for adults, Dhs75 for kids. Not for under-threes; under-13s must wear a helmet.