Forget Aspen? Skiing in Dubai

01/05/2011 08:59 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Over the past ten years, Dubai has emerged as a global financial center known as much for its flashy denizens as for its adventurous architecture. The emirate's seemingly endless upward trajectory took a hit following the financial crisis in 2008, but Dubai's one-of-a-kind attractions remain intact.

Take, for example, Ski Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates.

I entered the 5-star Kempinski hotel that sits adjacent to the mall only to come upon a Starbucks. As I walked by the Borders, The Athlete's Foot, and KFC, I had a moment of déjà vu that made me think I might be somewhere in suburban America. My bubble was burst as I came upon a mosque and failed to spot an Orange Julius. Then, as I rounded a corner, I saw a sight that convinced me that destiny had brought me to this mall. Just beyond the Papa John's I spotted children playing in a vast field of snow behind a wall of glass. Alongside the children I saw their fathers, wearing the traditional local dress of a white cloak and headscarf tucked into heavy winter parkas. As I approached, I realized that I had stumbled upon the much-touted Ski Dubai indoor slope and snow park.

I have been an avid skier ever since learning as a kid in Maine. Up until a few years ago, I was also a strident defender of East Coast skiing versus those wimps in the West (who needs powder when you have ice?). Having skied on the West Coast for the last several years, however, I figured I might as well continue my indiscretions by trying out Ski Dubai.


For US$50, Ski Dubai offers its customers two hours of skiing. Since it's usually 85° or hotter in Dubai and no one has ski gear, they throw in skis, boots, poles, snow pants, and a jacket. All I was missing was a hat and some gloves, but I figured that the indoor climate would be balmy compared to Maine in February.

Skiing indoors is a novel experience. There is no wind and the snow has the consistency of a Mister Misty. While Mister Misty has always been one of my favorite non-brazier treats at the Dairy Queen (only second to the Peanut Buster Parfait), it's not a great surface for winter sports. I soon realized that the 5-minute ride on the lift yielded just 4 minutes of actual skiing (I timed it), and even less if you rock some Bode Miller moves.

While all of these factors were disappointing, the true indignity came when I noticed that there was a huge TGI Friday's overlooking the slopes. It was replete with large windows allowing diners to overlook the slope during dinner. Call me a purist, but when I ski, I prefer mountain vistas to the sight of a British tourist eating an order of Zen Chicken Pot Stickers.

After 45 minutes and 5 runs, I decided that I'd had my fill of indoor skiing. On my way out of the mall, I passed through the food court and caught sight of a DQ. I decided to keep on walking. I'd already had enough Mister Misty for one day.