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Sat 8 May 2004 04:00 AM

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RAK plans outdoor skiing resort on Jabal Jais peak

Australian technology to make snow at mountain top and create UAE's first 'Alpine' slope

Construction is set to start on the UAE’s first genuine outdoors ski resort in the next six months, according to officials concerned with the project.

“It is an astonishing project. It will be truly amazing, no where else in the UAE can offer anything like this,” Dr. Khater Massaad, CEO of RAK Ceramics, told Construction Week.

The project is being developed in the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah near the Oman border, at the highest point in the UAE. The developers aim to capitalise on the area’s low temperatures by using Australian technology to introduce snow to the slopes and create a bona fide outdoors mountain ski resort.

At 1930 metres above sea level the Jabal Jais Mountain is the highest point in the UAE, and close to double the height of the highest points in Fujairah that are about 1100 metre high. This has a great impact on the climate. In winter, the temperatures on Jabal Jais range from –5 degrees Celcius to 8 degrees, cold enough to sustain snow. Even in the height of summer the mountain is still only 26 degrees during the day, cool enough to live without air conditioning.

The green light to develop this mountainous area was given a couple of years ago when the border between Oman and Ras Al Khaimah was formally drawn up. But the real catalyst for the development has come from Australia. The climate on Jabal Jais is very similar to climate of Australian ski resorts where they have low mountains and a four-month skiing season. The slopes in Australia use technology to artificially produce snow and extend their skiing season. The same technology will be used to introduce snow to Jabal Jais. “We hope to create a four month skiing season in Ras Al Khaimah,” says Dr. Massaad.

The sprawling resort will extend from 1600 metres above sea level to 1900 metres. In terms of area, the resort will be 5 km long, and on average be 500 metres wide. “We have planned a complete development, for holidaymakers to enjoy,” says Dr. Massaad.

Holidaymakers staying at the resort will be able to use the extensive facilities that include an outdoor Roman-style amphitheatre for concerts in the summer; a health club; an archery walk through; a rifle range; a health club; walking and jogging tracks; mountain bike courses; falconry; a bobsleigh run; and of course ski slopes. A cable car will provide transport around the 5 km long resort and access to the top of the ski slopes.

From the outside, access will be provided by road. For accommodation, the resort will have over 3000 keys (units) made up of 115 ranch-style villas; 184 cottage villas; 160 three-bedroom fallas villas, 224 two bedroom seeh villas, 228 one bedroom tuwi villas, 640 studios, 320 cave chalets, 388 hole chalets, and a 360 room luxury five star hotel.

According to Dr. Massaad, “The master plan is now finished and the design work for the various properties is well advanced. We want to start the execution of the project in the next three months, so that it can be ready in five years time.”

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