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Stay Cool - February 2017

Winter Playground in a Land Without Snow

by Keith Miller

The nation of Oman is renowned for the “sun mountain” of Jabal Shams, the tallest peak on the Arabian Peninsula; the therapeutic waters of the Al Kasfah Spring; and the strikingly beautiful Royal Opera House Muscat. But a snow park? Not what you’d expect in a country where the average daily high temperature in the capital city of Muscat is 92 degrees Fahrenheit.

But that is exactly what’s coming in the form of Snow Park Palm Mall, a cutting-edge indoor winter attractions playground to be part of the Palm Mall, the $300 million-plus development that will also include a retail center, aquarium, family entertainment center, and hotel. The 85,000-square-foot, Alpine-themed snow park, with a capacity of 500, will feature some 20 attractions, mountain scenery, Alpine chalet facades, snow-covered rockwork, food and beverage terraces, snowfall, and lighting and sound effects.

A joint venture of Tamani Leisure LLC, which is part of the Al Jarwani Group, and Netherlands-based Unlimited Snow, the snow park will feature a couple special innovations, according to Unlimited Snow CEO Kees Albers: “It will be the first snow park with fully reclaimated snow. Meltwater is recycled for snow-making. We’re also introducing snowfall machines, with real snow that actually falls instead of being blown.”

Another distinctive offering for a snow park will be an advanced reservations system offered by Entertainment Booking Concepts (EBC) in which guests will be able to plan, purchase, and reserve scheduled times at attractions without having to wait in queues. This is crucial in a retail mall environment where the guest’s average length of stay at the park is estimated at two hours. “When length of stay is two hours, we don’t want people waiting in queues,” says Peter Rødbro, co-CEO of EBC. “If you show up for two hours and spend 30 minutes in one queue, that’s not good.”

Upon entering the park, guests will be provided dry and disinfected warm clothing, boots, and helmets, since winter apparel isn’t exactly a common possession of residents and tourists in Oman. Then, before hitting the snowy attractions, they can proceed to an Alpine-themed café or to the Ice Bar, which features a special blue-ice-look ceiling, artificial ice blocks, and synthetic ice furniture.

One of the most unusual attractions of the two-level “cold zone” features electric headlight-equipped snowmobiles for kids ages 5 to 12. The snowmobiling circuit includes a ramp, bridge, and tunnel. The snowmobiles are wirelessly remote controlled for starting, braking, and stopping.

The park also features bumper cars; unlike the dry-park versions, these bumper cars slide on the ice after being bumped. They’re also equipped with laser guns so guests can hit targets on other cars and earn points. Just as unusual as the bumper cars are the real electric snow-digging machines, modified for use by kids to allow them to dig up, move around, and dump snow at will.

No winter experience would be complete without a snowball fight, and Snow Park Palm Mall takes an unconventional approach to this, as well. The park’s Snowball Arena features Yukigassen, a Japanese snowball fight competition consisting of teams of four to seven players, each armed with 90 snowballs. Get hit by a snowball and you’re out of the game, but if you manage to remain untagged, your team can win the melee by capturing the flag of the competing team.

Snow Park Palm Mall is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2017. 




More Fun in the Cold

In addition to signature attractions like electric snowmobiles and bumper cars on ice, Snow Park Palm Mall has numerous others. Here’s a sampling:

Straight Slides: On a real snow-tubing slope, suitable for all ages, are various runs using special single and double tubes, and parents can even take small kids for a ride on their laps.

Expedition High Ropes Course: This high-ropes course offers seven different tracks with distinct challenges. Participants can climb from tree to tree, secured by safety equipment.

Ice-Skating Rink: The rink will feature various ice games, such as broomball hockey.

Ice Cave: Underneath the tubing mountain will be an artificial ice cave that combines crawling and walk-through experiences through ice-themed caves leading to a main chamber where a surprise awaits.

Alpine Theatre: Featuring winter sports as well as educational winter-related films, in addition to customized interactive animations with Snow Park characters.