I went snowboarding in 100-degree weather for less than $100 — here’s the verdict

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Mohammed Hadi

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 five months of the year, being outdoors during the day can be a miserable experience. It’s hot and humid, easily over 100 degrees and sometimes closer to 110.

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 100 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 way to stay out of the sun for a few hours on a Saturday.

This is what it was like:


It was a bright and sunny day, and already the temperature was climbing fast. This is before 9:30 in the morning!

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

Luckily for me the Mall of Emirates isn’t far from where I was staying, so it was a quick trip on the highway.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

There it is. You can see the ski slope rising out of the mall as I drove in to the parking.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

It was still early, so lots of stores in the mall weren’t even open yet.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

But a few tourists were already milling around. The winter wonderland makes for a great backdrop even if you don’t go in.

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But I was going in. Because of the hour (10:00 a.m.) it was still quiet, which was great. Ski Dubai gets a million visitors a year, so definitely go early and enjoy it while it’s still empty.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

Once inside, I was greeted by this man. His name is Peter, and he was going to help me get my gear.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

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.

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Like this. Over my clothes (khakis and a long-sleeve shirt) this was enough to keep me warm. It’s about 25 degrees inside, but of course there’s no wind chill.

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Next its time to pick out your board (or skis) using this touch screen. It asks you about everything from your nationality to …

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… more practical details like how you want the snowboard set up.

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Then it was time to get the board and ….

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… throw my shoes in a locker. That key card gave me access to everything, starting with …

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

… 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.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

Then it was just a short escalator ride …

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… and a walk through an automatic glass door …

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… and into the snow. Right away it feels like a gray 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).

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Time to line up for the chair lift …

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… for the quick …

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… ride to the …

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

… top of the slope.

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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.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

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 let’s be honest here: If you’re super concerned about the environment, then this probably isn’t for you.

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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.

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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.

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Here’s the view from the top.

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There’s a real mix of skills on the slope. These kids are practicing jumps in the terrain park.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

But when I looked in the other direction I spotted a lot of beginners.

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There’s also a lot for nonskiers 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.

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Little ones can ride around on a sled.

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And there’s this …

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… whatever it is. I was not interested in rolling down a hill in a giant inflated ball.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

But MANY other people were. Look at that line.

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You can also ride an inner tube down the hill.

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I had my eye on something else though.

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So I took the chair lift back up the slope and got harnessed up.

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And strapped in for the ride down.

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Which was quick.

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Here’s a couple that was behind me.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

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 experienced skier you’ve got to remember … this is NOT a real mountain.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

Time to quickly chuck my snow clothes.

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

And grab an après ski coffee at the St. Moritz cafe. Where you can warm up …

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider

… by the fake fire!

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Mohammed Hadi/Business Insider