This post is part of a series of posts based on our recent visit to Dubai. While we saw many of the highlights, this series includes:
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Dubai’s famed indoor skiing resort, Ski Dubai, with over 240,000 square feet of skiing goodness, is located in the Mall of the Emirates. In person, it is actually a lot smaller than I would have imagined but the resort does pack a punch with the limited space. There are slopes for all levels (the longest run is a quarter of a mile long), a snow park where you can toboggan and bobsled, a giant snowball you can roll down a hill in, an indoor zipline, and multiple lifts. Not bad for an attraction inside a mall.
There’s a novelty to saying that you’ve been skiing in the desert and as a snowboarder, Mr. T was definitely tempted to hit the slopes during this trip. Unfortunately, the price for hitting the slops starts at 200 AED (about $54USD) and while this includes all the gear (minus the gloves and hat, apparently for hygienic reasons), it was a steep price to pay just to snowboard once or twice (he wasn’t planning on making a day of it even though it’s the same price if he did). So, we looked into alternatives for visiting.
If you’re not skiiing or snowboarding, the only other “official” way to enter the resort is to buy tickets to the snow park which are a little less expensive at 150AED (about $40USD). The snow park has the toboggan, a small cave for exploring, the zorbing, and bobsled, and a bridge you can walk on to see views (note, some of these attractions will require you to pay an additional fee on top of the snow park entrance fee). Of course, most of the people in the snow park are kids and the adults snapping photos of them so that idea quickly lost its luster.
We decided, instead, to opt for their penguin encounter. The regular penguin encounter is actually the same price as the snow park entrance. Apparently, Dubai is the only place in the world where visitors can actually touch and hug real penguins and being the animal lover that I am AND being that I absolutely adore penguins AND given that similar experiences at Sea World would have cost way more, it was easy to decide to do the penguin encounter.
There are actually three different types of penguin encounters although only the “regular” encounter (i.e., Peng-friend Encounter) is always offered. The regular encounter allows a group of 12 max to visit at least two penguins for about 45 minutes. A photographer snaps photos during the encounter which you can buy afterwards. You’re not allowed to bring a camera.
The other encounters up the ante in that you pay either 500AED or 850AED for the opportunity to interact with more penguins and for a longer period of time (75 min and 90 min, respectively). They also include one photo or a disc of all the photos and extras I didn’t think justify the steep price like hot chocolate and a “souvenir”.
We started our regular encounter by learning about the penguins and the rules while interacting with them (basically don’t go pouncing on the penguin the minute you see it). Then we sat down while a trainer introduced us to two adorable Gentoo penguins, Pumpkin and Mitty, who then danced for us in exchange for fish, and then posed for photos with everyone in the group. These penguins were so friggin’ cute and so full of personality and energy. It was so fun just to watch them interact with the trainer and run around as they found their place in “line” to pose for photos.
Afterwards, we met two more penguins, this time King Penguins. The King Penguins weren’t as active as the Gentoos but they were huge! King Penguins are the second largest in the world after the Emperor Penguins. At this point, the trainer gave us some insight into the King Penguins and then let us each hug and kiss the King Penguins while the photographer snapped away.
In retrospect, the encounter was mostly a photo op for the guests since the majority of the time was spent waiting to take photos with these super cute animals. In fact, the more photos they take of you, the more likely you are to purchase photos afterwards so it’s somewhat of an ingenious business model – guests pay to take photos with the penguins and then pay again to purchase said photos.
That said, we really enjoyed the penguin encounter because it was the only time we’ve ever been that close to penguins. Plus, it was just hilarious to watch the Gentoos run around like little toddlers.
While the penguin encounter doesn’t include entry to the snow park, we actually ducked into the snow park afterwards. There were some folks who joined our penguin group from the snow park so I didn’t see why we couldn’t just check it out for a little bit especially since we weren’t planning to toboggan or bobsled.
First off, it’s COLD in there. It was cold in the penguin encounter and no different in the actual resort. The temperature is kept right below freezing.
From the snow park we climbed up one of the bridges to see the rest of the resort which was mostly the lifts and the runs. Again, this reaffirmed our initial impression that this place is a lot smaller than we imagined.
While it was also interesting to see an indoor ski resort, we also decided that the thought of seeing it was better than actually seeing it. When I stood there, it just wasn’t that… impressive… because, well, it’s indoors (oh the irony of the attraction). If I’m going to hit the slopes, I’d much rather it be out in the open with miles and miles of trails, long chair lifts, powdery fresh snow, and open shops to peruse when the night falls. There’s also something nice about going back to a warm cabin, a fireplace, and sitting in a hot tub on a blistery wintery day – none of which you’d get to experience at Ski Dubai.
In all, however, that just made me all the more glad that we chose to do the penguin encounter instead of buying tickets to the snow park. For $40 each, we got a great laugh hanging with the penguins and got the opportunity to walk around the perimeter of the resort to see the snow park and the lifts, which was enough to confirm that we made the right choice with the penguin encounter. If you’re at all considering a visit to Ski Dubai and in the same boat as we were, I highly recommend the penguin encounter over the other visitation options.
If you’re planning to go:
- The penguin encounters may fill up so buy your tickets online to reserve your spot!
- Unlike the other resort visit options, the penguin encounters actually include a glove in the ticket price.
- The snow penguins are available all day between 12pm and 9pm.
- If you don’t know how to ski or snowboard, Ski Dubai also offers lessons – for a price.
- If you don’t want to physically enter the park, you can still see it from inside the mall – there are giant floor-to-ceiling windows that allow mall goers to peek at the activity inside the resort from the first and second floors of the mall.
- Although you get jackets and pants to wear with your admission ticket, it is still cold inside so dress warmly if you’re there.