No Snow in Saudi Arabia? There is Now, and Skiing Too

American Bedu Guest Post by Lily Lowton:

Middle Eastern nations are not renowned for their love of snow sports, given that there is very little snow fall in these hot, dusty countries. Saying that, sometimes things the unexpected does happen, and only a couple of months ago the mountain regions of northwest Saudi Arabia was treated to some very rare snowfall to the delight of locals living there. The usual lack of snow here does not mean the people have no desire to try exhilarating activities like skiing, snowboarding, or tobogganing. For the people of Saudi Arabia, hitting the slopes means heading off to colder climates on ski holidays, but this is all set to change. Inspired by the success of Ski Dubai’s’ 22,500 square meter indoor ski resort, complete with real snow, ski-lifts, and even jumps, Saudi Arabia are now ready to bring snow sports home. Skiing, snowboarding, and tobogganing will be found all under one roof at a new indoor snow village that could trump all the other indoor ski slopes out there in the desert.

Al Qasr

A Snow Village in a Super Mall

The brand new Al Qasr Mall opened little more than 6 months ago, located within one of Saudi Arabia’s international hubs, the city of Riyadh. It is here that the new snow village will be built, thanks to a deal between the huge construction firm Dar Al Arkan and the Al Othaim Investment and Teal Estate Development Company. Now this isn’t the first attempt at bringing snow to Riyadh, as there is already a ‘Snow World’ in the city, on King Abdulla Street opposite the Al Ameer Salman Center. It is possible to ski here, but there is no ski-lift on the slope and it is depressingly short. The new snow village planned will be “the first indoor snow village of its type,” according to a statement issued by its developers. It has also been revealed that a 10,693 square meter area of the Al Qasr mall has been set aside for the new snow village, but little else is known about the development.

Real Saudi Ski Resorts

While an indoor ski resort in Saudi Arabia is a realistic idea, a more unbelievable and exciting suggestion would be actual outdoor ski resorts, but believe it or not it could happen. Saudi entrepreneurs have seen the demand for snow sports facilities in the country, and have actually attempted to build ski resorts in mountainous areas of southwest Saudi Arabia, next to the border with Yemen. The plan is to use snow making machines to provide the snow, but as it stands there are still no ski resorts in Saudi Arabia… yet.

The Next Best Thing?

While you may be forgiven in thinking that there simply cannot be that much demand for skiing and snowboarding in Saudi Arabia, think again. Sure, the lack of consistent snow stops most people in their tracks, but some innovative, and perhaps crazy, people have thought outside the box when it comes to getting the thrills enjoyed while skiing. One Austrian ski instructor missed the snow so much while in Saudi Arabia he decided to have a go at what he must have thought to be the next best thing… heading into the desert and see if he could find a slope of sand to slide down. The video below captures his commendable attempt.

As you can see, this does not quite cut it, and something a little more extreme was thought up by some daredevil locals. A car and some sandal with wheels attached were all these guys needed to replicate skiing Saudi style.

An Expats Delight

With plenty of expats living and working in Saudi Arabia, missing the snow could become a thing of the past once the new indoor slope is finished. Being able to slip into those ski boots after work and spend an hour improving your carving skills a few weeks before heading off to the Alps will surely be welcomed. You never know, it is always possible that Saudi Arabia will begin to breed its own snow sports superstars of the future, but perhaps that is going a little too far. One thing that does seem sure though, is that skiing in the desert is now here to stay.


10 Responses

  1. At this very moment, a winter snowstorm has abated after snowing continuously for the last 6 hrs. or so with winds whipping around 40-75 km / hr. here in Alberta, Canada.

    An indoor ski resort sounds like a lot of effort….to produce snow and to make a place like a refrigerator. Huge use of energy to do this! I hope people remember this. A swimming pool area is smaller indoors… to heat in the winter.

    I love it ..snow fantasies. And I’ve heard enough people who bring relatives from a tropical country to experience Canadian winter. Lovely to look at, refreshing…but after a few wks. and after Christmas, just a drag. Cold every day.

    But yes, clean fresh snow in draping piles is gorgeous in the mountains and to smell the wilderness freshness.

  2. I love the smell of fresh air on a nice winter day. I guess if I was a a skier the inside would work but for me, no.

  3. Surely there has to be a way to adapt the skis for sand? It would make for an interesting Master’s/PhD project for a materials science student!

  4. Here is a link to a street-skiing video in Seattle: It didn’t seem to work out too well, but I applaud the effort! I’d be willing to give it a try! 😀 Anyways, just felt like sharing.

  5. I was telling my friend once that an indoor snow place would be wonderful in Bahrain…or somewhere over there…so Arabs could enjoy snow…probably for the first time ever. I was surprised it hadn’t been thought up yet…then I won a trip to Dubai and she and I were walking in some mall there and there was a snow place in it. Came out of nowhere around a corner and was so funny the way we looked at each other and laughed. It was awesome as I hadn’t seen snow in many years either and her never.

    On the other hand…someone stole my idea. Grrrr!!!!

  6. Coolred38,

    I think you are referring to Ski Dubai, the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East! My family and I visited it about ten years ago, shortly after it opened. It has all the amenities of a ski resort: mountain-themed wintery setting, skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, snow penguins, or just plain playing in the snow. After you get used to it, you forget about any differences between outdoor versus indoor skiing :)-

    I think, an indoor ski resort will be a big hit in saudi, as it has been in Dubai. I think the economic demographics are there; especially considering the large western expat population.

  7. actually you can go out in to the desert and ski or snow board down the dunes.

    On Mon, Mar 4, 2013 at 9:22 AM, American Bedu

  8. ” You never know, it is always possible that Saudi Arabia will begin to breed its own snow sports superstars of the future, but perhaps that is going a little too far.”

    Sure, the Jamaicans have a Bobsled team. Saudis can have a Ski team. Only adjustment they have to make is get better cloths. A thobe won’t do well in the cold snow. Come to think of it did not do well in Sand Skiing either 🙂

  9. I looked at that link (playmania). Hmmm…controlled winter. Surreal.

    Meanwhile after 2 days of melting snow, we are now back down to -15 degrees C with more snow on the way over the next few hrs.

    Luckily my tall winter boots didn’t leak when stepping around in slushy snow piles and then with rocky icy sidewalks when in still night darkness.

    Maybe the playmania participants might even understand slogging through 10 cm. of unshovelled snow for 2 km. with bags of groceries with a wind of 30 kmph blowing intoyour face with falling snow? It’s great exercise from just performing a daily chore..getting your groceries home.

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