A snow man lights the way in the Ski Dubai Snow Park. Picture: Gemma Nisbet

Standing in line for the ski lift, I can feel the cold seeping in through my rubber boots. I should have worn thicker socks. It's -3C and I'm feeling the chill.

Yet, only a couple of hours earlier I was cooling off with a swim in the pool at my hotel, lounging in the shade to escape the heat of a 40C day. Such are the possibilities in Dubai, perhaps the ultimate city of contrasts, where extraordinary contradictions are an everyday experience to be embraced as part of the fun of the place.

I am, of course, at Ski Dubai, in the Mall of the Emirates. Billed as the finest indoor ski resort in the Middle East - a title for which I suspect competition is not particularly intense - Ski Dubai is one of the more incongruous attractions in this desert city. Its five slopes include the world's first indoor black run, adjoined by the 3000sqm Snow Park for tobogganing and other winter activities.

I arrived a short while earlier and was kitted out with boots, socks and gloves, plus a warm jacket and pants in fetching bright red and blue.

Entering the Snow Park, I come first to an artificial ice cave. In the middle looms an ice sculpture of a dragon. Multicoloured lights dance on the icy ceiling. I can safely say it's quite unlike anything I've seen before.

I round the corner just in time to catch the last part of the Snow Penguins show. Children crowd around the barrier, their parents snapping photographs as gentoo and king penguins wobble about. On the microphone, a keeper reminds the crowd not to litter to help protect the birds' wild cousins.

I continue onwards, past an ATM - an odd sight surrounded by fake snow - and into the Snow Park proper. It's pretty extraordinary. A cavernous chilled space filled with ski runs and rides, fake rocks and trees dotted about, all overlooked by a massive wall of windows in the style of an Alpine chalet. Shoppers pause to gawk through the glass; others eat dinner gazing over the snowy scene.

Passing the bobsled runs and what looks like an Asian pagoda carved from snow, I dodge children in ski suits and helmets. They're lit up with delight as they throw fake snow, ignoring the large sign with a polar bear warning sternly about the dangers of such recklessness.

It's Saturday evening - the equivalent of a Sunday night in Dubai, where the weekend begins on a Friday - and the day before a public holiday, so the Snow Park is packed with families. I join the queue for the chairlift and end up riding to the top with an Emirati man and his two children. "Welcome to Dubai, madam," he says. I guess my boggle-eyed expression has given me away.

At the top, I watch as the three of them take off down the slope. But I'm not skiing down, nor am I making the return trip on the chairlift. With the air of a person condemned, I mount the stairs to the launch pad for something called the Snow Bullet. Advertised as the world's first indoor sub-zero zip line - again, not exactly a crowded field, I imagine - it's a 150m zip line up to 16m above the ski runs.

Strapped into a harness by two genial instructors, I am teetering on the edge of the ledge when the terror sets in. It seems very high up, and a very long way to the bottom. The instructor tells me to lean back and extend my arms. I poke my hands out just a little, looking like one of the penguins I saw earlier. And then, before I can protest, he pushes me off and I'm whizzing above the skiers and snowboarders below, the air a cold slap on my face. It's slower and less frightening than I'd imagined, and by the time I smack into the landing pad at the end, I'm all smiles.

Perhaps it's the endorphins but I no longer mind that my toes are almost numb with cold, or that my glasses fog up every time I exhale too vigorously. I notice the tinkly, winter wonderland music playing in the background, overlaid by the sounds of children playing.

Down the stairs, past the Snow Bullet Cafe, I pause to watch as an oversized, transparent plastic ball rolls down a slope. This is the Giant Ball ride and my ticket entitles me to try it out. I contemplate the limp form of a person bouncing around inside the ball and decide against it. The Snow Bullet was enough excitement for one day.

I wander around a little more, watching the skiers and snowboarders zipping down the slope with various degrees of proficiency and the children riding the toboggan in giant plastic rings. And as I head back out, through the snow cave and past the dragon ice sculpture, I find that I'm feeling quite warm inside, despite the chill.

Gemma Nisbet visited Dubai as a guest of Emirates airline and Dubai Tourism.

FACT FILE

For details about visiting Ski Dubai, go to www.skidxb.com.

Along with Ski Dubai, the Mall of the Emirates incorporates 560 shops, a family entertainment area, 14-screen cinema, the 500-seat Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre and more than 90 dining options. There are also two hotels which adjoin the mall. malloftheemirates.com.

Emirates has multiple daily flights from Perth to Dubai. From Dubai, travellers can connect with the airline’s network of more than 140 destinations worldwide. emirates.com or 1300 303 777.

For more on visiting Dubai, go to definitelydubai.com.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save