Dubai layover: snowmen and sandmen

Dubai layover: snowmen and sandmen

DUBAI — Eight years ago, I remember watching the contestants of the infamous adventure travel show, The Amazing Race, make a pit stop in Dubai for the very first time.
During one of the challenges, they were asked to visit Ski Dubai and carry snow outside in the 50C weather in order to build a snowman. They had to collect enough snow and properly dress the snowman before it all turned into puddles. I remember finding that quite entertaining, yet at the same time, equally fascinating.  
Here,  you  have  a place where the  sun  rays  shine  so  strong,  that  even  birds would rather slump  against  the  heaviness  of  the  palm  trees,  instead  of  floating  on  the glimmer of the calm creeks.
Yet, here, you can also find a place that is cold enough for  the  snow  to  settle,  year-­round;  the  gentle  flakes  resting  against  the  imposing sounds of the air-­conditioned turbines, the lifeline keeping this tropical arctic alive.  
It would be an understatement to call Dubai a summer destination. In fact, wintertime is actually when the fun is known to begin. Dubai is a place where you can ski on white, frosty snow on the same day after skiing down a desert hill of golden, smooth sand.


Above: There's plenty to do for flight crew during a layover in Dubai.

If you still have the energy, that is.  
If  you’ve  never  heard  of  sand-­skiing  or  sand-­boarding,  it  is  similar  to  what  you would expect in a winter climate, minus having to bundle up and adding the effort of carrying your  equipment  uphill.  
No  ski  lifts  here, though.
Professionals recommend  to  find  a  good  guide,  dip  yourself  in  plenty  of  sunscreen,  and  wear goggles with UV protection. Preferably, engage on this desert adventure at dawn or dusk, and on a day where the breeze is peaceful; you want the wind to gently push you as you coast on the glassy dunes, without having to worry about rushes of sand blocking your vision or infiltrating through your clothes.
As  fun  as  sand-­skiing  might  be,  a  perfect  winter  day  for  me  in  Dubai  consists  of relaxing in one of the many resorts offering an oasis in the middle of the desert.
I love  cooling  off  in  the  jets  of  an  infinity  pool,  while  overlooking  the  picturesque, golden emptiness in the distance. Just as at the top of the mountain, in the desert you find a sense of peace and silence that is unique to the landscape.
Hidden among the pine trees, you might find a deer among the sandy dunes, perhaps a camel; the occasional signs of life reminding you that silence is not guaranteed, and any quiet memory is only as meaningful when appreciated after a sudden, intrusive sound.
As a proud Canadian, avid skier and mountain enthusiast, I enjoy getting my snow fix by visiting the slopes of the Mall of the Emirates.

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Above: Indoor skiing and building snowmen in the sand keeps our Frequent Flyer busy in Dubai.

On a weekday, it is particularly quiet, the lines are not too long, and the snow remains smoother for much longer.
For me, this is a reminder of home.
While gliding downhill, regardless if I’m at Ski Dubai, if I close my eyes for a few seconds, I can almost imagine going down the 7th Heaven on Blackcomb Mountain in Whistler.
The rush of cold air briefly freezing up my eyelashes, the silence of the arctic incubator, the occasional lumps of snow settling on my pants and then instantly melting, creating patterns out of the patches of water; it all makes me feel as if I’ve never left. It lets me have the best of both worlds.
Armed with a hot chocolate from the nearby café, I find myself warming up under one of the outdoor heaters. After all, the temperatures here are kept in the negatives, and although it might sound like an oxymoron being still in Dubai, you’ll find yourself craving for a gush of warmth.
Building a snowman in Dubai, I believe, would be equally as challenging as building a sandman. The snow would melt before you know it, just as the sand would probably dry up too quickly and get blown away by the wind.
What makes Dubai rather special, in a way, is that on any given day, you can try and do both; winter being only a season that somehow brings these two elements a little bit closer together.

• For more travel adventures, read Andrei’s blog at


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