Log Cabin Chronicles
Letter From the Oasis #14
Jerry Buzzell
Jerry Buzzell
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Dr. Jerry Buzzell, a Vermonter who now lives away, teaches anatomy at the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain. For the next 4-5 years, Abu Dhabi will be the home of Jerry and his wife, Linda. He expects to file periodic reports from the region, as he did while living and teaching in Kuwait.

Jerry's previous columns are archived HERE

Posted 04.03.06
Dubai ~ United Arab Emirates

JERRY BUZZELL

Skiing in the desert

DUBAI, UAE | There wasn't enough snow to ski in Vermont this past January, so we went skiing in Dubai instead.

Dubai is on a roll -- construction cranes are all over the place. New skyscrapers, new islands, new amusement parks, new malls.

ski facility

The Mall of the Emirates went up with a strange shiny sloping futuristic-appearing tail. This is Ski Dubai, the Gulf's first year-round indoor ski facility>

We live in Al Ain, about 120 km south of Dubai. We tend to look with bemusement at Dubai, wondering when the bubble will burst. Still, it's a great place for shopping and will continue to be fun while it lasts. Linda and I went to the movies at the Mall recently and had a gander at the skiing from the observation gallery. Thought "Y'know, it would be kind of fun to try that!"

The came the day. Linda had an appointment with her hairdresser and my camera was finally fixed and ready to be picked up. So we went.

Ski Dubai is the mall's major tourist attraction and they've done it up well.

You enter a large reception area with ticket vendors, a ski shop, a café. Buy tickets. You have choices - there is a snow park for people who want to experience the snow without boards on their feet, as well as the ski slopes. Two adults for two hours, peak days - 260 dirhams (about 100 US dollars). Not cheap but that price includes ski jacket, pants, skis (or snowboard), and boots. Not hat or gloves; you can buy them. We did without (rugged Canadians that we are...).

boot fittingSo it was off to be fitted -- coats, pants, boots. (I once had a pair of skiboots that was comfortable. Not these.) Skis, with bindings adjusted to the boot size. Through the gate, up the escalator, pick up a couple of poles, through the door and onto the snow...

Some facts from the website (http://www.skidxb.com): 400m run with a drop of 60m; 80m wide. Artificial snow (obviously) and ambient temperature of -1 to -2C. Quad chairlift with stations at the bottom, middle, and top.

ski hill

The ticket is a computer chip embedded in a plastic card. It's activated when you start and opens up the turnstile to approach the lift, informing you of the time you have remaining.

liftUp and away! First run, a gentle downhill from the middle station. Reacquaint yourself with the feeling of boards on your feet (it's been at least ten years since we've skied downhill.). Felt pretty good. So next time (and subsequent times), it was up to the top.

Downand up. Down and up. Down and up. This is indoors; there are no trails such as we'd recognize them.

ski lift

No surprises. Avoid hitting the walls and other skiers and snowboarders. One run they call "expert" which is really just a steeper version of the rest.

skiierLinda was happy -- no rocks or trees to avoid. But after an hour of up followed by down followed by up, it was beginning to pall.

People-watching in these circumstances is always fun. Lots of people, large and small, having a good time. Various degrees of expertise. Face plants. Snow boards. Families. Hot rodders. Snowplows.

One young lady in sheilah and long black coat got off at the top just in front of me. The next time I went up, she was rooted to the same spot.

skiierThe next time, an instructor was holding her skis in the snowplow position and skiing slowly backward with her in tow.

Once we had had enough, we quit and experienced the greatest pleasure of downhill skiing - how good it feels when you take those damn boots off!

So, what's my verdict? It's no Banff. No Jay. It's not even the Norwich Ski Hill where I learned to ski half a century ago. But it's all we have here and I take my touque off to them.

However, once in a lifetime is enough; I'll hope we get snow in Vermont next winter!

Jerry & Linda
Al Ain, United Arab Emirates

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