The following article by Tom Scheffer, ICAE, first appeared on the opening of Ski Egypt At the start of March and is being reproduced with Tom’s kind permission.
Today is a special day, a day many have been living towards for a long time! Today Mall of Egypt officially opened, home to fantastic shopping, dining, entertainment and Africa’s first indoor snow attraction; Ski Egypt, creating a cool experience in Africa every day!
Often, when I speak to friends, colleagues and peers in our industry, it surprises me how many do not know how to position these facilities. Indoor snow domes are commonly perceived as sport clubs and compared with soccer-clubs & other sports facilities where families spend their Saturdays. Rarely does someone realize this industry goes well beyond that and are better compared to large regional attractions.
The fact that over 55 of these attractions are in operation globally, and some have been for over 20 years, plus that several of these attractions sell over a million tickets annually, out-preforming several of the more traditional attractions in their region, is something that somehow seems to be the best kept secret among indoor snow operators…..
It is my enthusiasm for our corner of the entertainment industry that drives me to continue to proclaim that these facilities are so much more than sports arena’s or the result of a couple of guys with crazy dreams. It is a passionate industry that has been able to create family attractions in the truest sense of the word. There are not many traditional attractions with such a broad appeal. One can visit these snow based attractions from “2 to 102 years old” and have family fun in the coolest environment. Beyond the secondary services such as food & beverage and retail that really complement the experience, indoor snow attractions can deliver a great time to any & all. Where else can you have in the same day; a sport experience, a thrill experience, have fun on a ride, learn a new skill or just have an awesome time hanging out with family & friends!?
So how did we get here?
The current generation of indoor snow attractions continue on a legacy of immersive leisure that really bloomed in the 90’s in Europe. Where back then the Austrian Music, Gluhwein, Apfelstudel and Apres-Ski-parties were used to amplify the experience of being on the snow, now we go well beyond that. We tell a story, we create excitement and we make guests forget they are in a huge freezer.
The most well known indoor snow attraction is likely to be Ski Dubai and that is not just because of its unique location. In the early 2000’s a lot of thought has gone in to the design of Ski Dubai to ensure the attraction would be appealing to all demographics, both from an age and cultural aspect. With the introduction of permanent mountain inspired theming the facility became much more than just a snowfilled box and the introduction of a storyline was the first great step towards what now has become a must have to meet guest expectations.
The new standard: Ski Egypt
10 years later Majid Al Futtaim, the owner/operator of Ski Dubai, has upped the standard again with the creation and delivery of Ski Egypt in Cairo. With a slightly different footprint compared to its sister in the UAE, the focus on an ever wider demographic intensified, offering a fantastic snowplay area anchored by a ski slope. With the transformation of the industry, snowboaring & skiing has become one of the many activities that you, as a guest, can engage in and not the sole focus. The snowplay area, best compared to a frozen waterpark, has been set in a fantastic mountainesque scene, with unique, creative & more elaborate theming than used in indoor snow attractions till date.
Guests can not only experience below freezing temperatures, there is an array of ” first in indoor snow” attractions that add on to having a great time in the snow, guests can ride exciting & bespoke designed rides, enjoy modern AV & VR solutions that support the story that has been created to deliver a complete and immersive experience, certain to be enjoyed by many guests from Cairo and beyond.
Knowing that for a large number of guests this could easily be the very first time in the snow or even freezing temperatures, great anticipation is build during the arrival moment and the visitor’s first touch of the snow. Through-out the park guest can find several rides and activations to enjoy , yet the design team has not forgotten the more traditional rides, inspired by the simple rule of the mountain: Go up and slide down.
On top of all of this joy and excitement for non skiers, Ski Egypt is home to a fantastic Ski School team, trained to the highest standards & certified by an international body. For the existing skiers that call Cairo home this is great news, a place close to home where they can enjoy the sport they are so passionate about. For the wintersport industry this is monumental; Cairo, home to an approximate 30 million people, will now have a growing wintersport scene. With a young population it is certain skier & snowboarder numbers will start growing rapidly, as we have seen in the U.A.E (and historically wherever these facilities open.) Though indoor snow is not intended to replace the mountain experience, it is the ultimate driver behind creating new wintersport enthusiasts and better rounded skiers, with their year round availability.
Egypt, and Cairo in particular, has gained an attraction that will deliver hours of fun for all visitors and promotes a sport and lifestyle that previously was only accessible by an small number of people that could travel to Lebanon or Europe.
I for one am delighted for the owner and all teams that have worked on creating this fantastic attraction and would like to congratulate all involved with delivering the new standard in Snowbusiness!