An artist's impression of the winter ski resort project on the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah. Image Credit: Supplied picture

Dubai: After an artificial indoor ski slope at the Mall of the Emirates, the UAE might soon have a ski resort in a natural environment — and on a mountain peak that occasionally witnesses snowfall.

The Ras Al Khaimah government is developing a ski resort on its mountains bordering Oman’s Musandam peninsula where visitors can ski in a natural and open environment, a top government official said.

A road network to reach the peak where Jebel Jais Resort would be built is 70 per cent complete. It snows occasionally on the mountain during winter — which may not be enough for operating an all-year-round ski facility, necessitating artificial means to generate ice.

“We are currently experimenting with the technology to produce a large quantity of ice during winter,” Salem Sultan Al Qassimi, Chairman of the Department of Civil Aviation of Ras Al Khaimah and Vice Chairman of RAK Air, told Gulf News. He is also involved in the government’s tourism development initiatives to realign the airline’s strategy for the growth of the industry in Ras Al Khaimah.

“Once it’s done successfully, we will have the region’s first winter ski resort in Ras Al Khaimah,” he said.

Road connectivity

Jebel Jais resort will be located 1.9 kilometres above sea level. A 36-kilometre-long road is being built to connect the site to travellers.

Designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, the Jebel Jais Mountain Resort is a new masterplanned tourist village in Ras Al Khaimah, built on the top and sides of a mountain range.

The resort is part of an ambitious project by the Ras Al Khaimah government that has identified tourism as a major driver of its economy. RAK Airways is part of that overall plan.

“We are planning to order two Airbus A30s this year to boost passenger traffic to the emirate,” Al Qassimi said. “Last year, our airline carried 328,000 passengers and this year, we expect to cross the half-a-million mark.”

The airline operates to nine destinations with three leased aircraft. In recent months, the airline has managed to sustain its operations with growing number of passengers. However, growth is restricted by traffic rights, he said.

“If we are allowed to fly to more destinations in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, we will carry more passengers. However, due to bilateral traffic rights restrictions, we can’t grow as fast as we want to.”

He said the airline would self-finance the aircraft or take a loan. The order could be placed during the Dubai Airshow in November this year.