Thursday, 30 Mar 2023

Inside Saudi Arabia’s wild megacity ski resort with artificial snow in desert

Saudi Arabia is hoping to construct a leading winter sports centre with miles of ski runs, in the middle of the desert.

Work has already begun on the sprawling Trojena, which is set to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games despite the warm climate it is set in.

The one-of-a-kind resort is hoping to go to toe with some of the world’s most famous ski destinations, despite their climatic advantage.

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Trojena will be built 30 miles east of the coast of the Red Sea in the Sarawat mountains, where the mercury rises around 10 degrees less than in the rest of the country – a massive boost to engineers tasked with keeping snow on the ground.

In the winter, temperatures have been known to drop as low as freezing and the area has even seen snow – a stark contrast to the rest of the Kingdon of Saudi Arabia.

A man-made lake will also feature among the ski slopes – but there remain concerns among critics that keeping enough snow on the piste will continue to be an issue.

It comes as part of the 110-mile-long NEOM project, which will see a massive skyscraper city constructed from scratch.

Known as the Mirror Line, the £400billion project is touted to be able to house five million people, will be taller than the Empire State Building and bigger than Massachusetts.

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Work has begun on the brainchild of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Big-budget promotional material has begun emerging showing people popping to the slopes from the mountains – although it has been acknowledged by NEOM managing director Jan Paterson that around 70% of the snow that will exist on-piste will be artificial.

Speaking to the Sun, snow expert Fraser Wilkin reckoned however that there will only be a “meaningless” amount of natural snow.

He claimed that although there would be “the odd shower or storm in the winter” it is likely there would be “whole months on end of clear blue skies”.

With a planned completion date of 2026 we don’t have too long to wait to find out if the remarkable scheme can come off, with 700,000 visitors hoped to pass through per year.

Dr Madeline Orr, founder and co-director of the Sport Ecology Group at Loughborough University said: “Undoubtedly, the energy and water resources required for ski facilities and ice rinks will be extraordinary."

“I’ll be watching to see how they make it happen, but I have serious concerns about any claims this event will be sustainable.”

Many human rights campaign groups have lobbied western firms to refuse work on the project due to the poor human rights record of Saudi Arabia.

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