Say what you want about Saudi Arabia – but you can’t deny they certainly have some ambition. And one of the bold visions unveiled as part of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman’s vision for the future of the oil rich kingdom is the world’s first year round ski resort.
Hang on. What?
Yes, Trojena is part of the NEOM region which is part of a huge development designed to overhaul the image of this historically conservative nation.
A ski resort in Saudi Arabia is one thing. But all year round? Even the Alps, Rockies and Nordic nations can’t really manage consistent year round ski terrain (with a few glacial exceptions in Europe).
OK, let’s unpick this and see if the options really stack up or if this is just another Mega Project doomed to fail.
Could Saudi Arabia really be a good place for a ski resort?
Saudi Arabia, as a country, has perpetually been renowned as the land of deserts and heat. The notion of proposing a snow-covered, chill, and frosty ski resort in Saudi Arabia is nothing short of revolutionary. But it’s not merely a conceptual revolution. The ambitious project is already well underway and might not sound as crazy as you might think.
Trojena, a part of the $500 billion mega-city Neom, is actually located within Saudi Arabia’s highest mountain range with altitudes extending from 1,500m to 2,600m. So it does have altitude on it’s side.
But how about the temperatures?
Actually, Trojena’s unique geography mean that it experiences sub-zero winter temperatures and comfortable yet cool summer months. Potentially making it an optimal round-the-year setting for skiing.
The nearby Jabal al Lawz, which is the tallest mountain in Saudi Arabia, does in fact get consistent and regular snow during the winter months. So yes, there is definitely potential for a ski resort in Saudi Arabia, and for it to be at least a moderate success.
If you’ve not seen the promo fluff, it certainly looks ambitious. And while the presentation is very slick – in a very Saudi way – even if it does come to a fraction of the fruition that is imagined here, it could be an impressive ski area.
It’s already happening…
One more thing to realise as part of all this is that Saudi Arabia is already putting in the legwork to attract all the sports events they can. As well as football and boxing, they’ve also already signed up Trojena as host of the Asian winter games in 2029. This despite the fact that there is no ski resort in place at the moment, and they need to build the whole place, and set up roads, hotels and all the associated infrastructure.
So while it might seem a bit far fetched right now, they have committed and they’re gonna (need to) be delivering on those promises within the next 5 years.
All eyes on Trojena then.
Would a ski resort in the middle east work?
Actually, the middle east is already home to several ski resorts, some of which are in quite unlikely places.
Israel is home to Mount Hermon ski resort, which although is not huge, gets a good amount of snow coverage and visitors.
Lebanon features several ski resorts including The Cedars, Zaarour and the surprisingly large and high altitude Mzaar – Kfardebian. In fact Lebanon has long been a ski hotspot for the Middle East, especially those from the Gulf states.
Iran is perhaps the major ski destination in the region, with the fantastic Dizin and Tochal which is one of the highest ski resorts in the world. Both of these are often held up as some of the most underrated ski experiences – and yes they’re in the Middle east.
Georgia is home to numerous great little ski resorts including Gudauri and Bakuriani. Both of which are cropping up on the radars of us Europeans and North Americans as great budget ski destinations with snow sure terrain.
There are also ski resorts in Iraq, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
In short, it’s not so crazy to build a ski resort in the Middle East. And where there is snow and low enough temperatures to maintain the coverage, why shouldn’t there also be lift infrastructure to accommodate skiers and snowboarders?
The demand for skiing in the middle east
Historical precedence always plays a vital role when weighing the likelihood of success for any venture. In the world of winter sports and tourism, there have been surprising success stories from unique geographies. For example, Ski Dubai, another Middle Eastern initiative, is an indoor ski resort that has gained great popularity over the years. It too faced initial skepticism, but today it’s a celebrated indoor ski park attended by thousands of visitors.
This underlines the fact that a well-executed, unique idea can definitely flourish in what seemed initially like unlikely ground.
In addition to this, the rise in the demand for luxurious experiences has only grown as Saudi and the Gulf States shower their inhabitants with oil money.
So, as it stands, the Trojena venture appears ready to scratch below the surface of what is plausible or expected. Trojena, poised as a luxury super-project, will not only glimpse the ski culture ubiquitous in popular destinations such as the Swiss Alps or French Pyrenees, but it also intends to be a hub of alpine sports and recreation. It aims to integrate culture, adventure, and nature in a way that promises an unrivaled richness of experiences beyond just skiing.
And why not?
The problems with building a ski resort in Saudi Arabia
Like any ambitious undertaking, the Trojena ski resort project is not without its obstacles. There are substantial ecological and logistical questions that obviously need to be addressed to make this venture sustainable and successful.
And the S word, sustainable, is one that Saudi Arabia has been throwing around with regards to pretty much everything it has done in recent years. From the ‘sustainable’ development of a huge linear city through the natural landscape in an arid area that will need massive infrastructure to maintain it; to the sustainable development of huge urban sprawls.
The actual environmental impact of these developments remains to be seen. In fact, any development from scratch is bound to impact the environment, especially those in grand scope and scale such as Trojena and Neom, and actually anything in the Middle East for that matter.
And that’s not to mention that implementing a ski resort of such scale in the region will necessitate meticulous disaster management planning, for conditions like avalanches and harsh winters.
Of course, Saudi has a pretty bad reputation when it comes to human rights, LGBTQ+ rights and freedom of speech. But hey, this hasn’t stopped Dubai from being a magnet for the glitterati.
Oh and we’re not going to mention the geo-political issues in the Middle east at the moment. Except to say that any escalation in neighbouring countries could very easily derail the entire project.
But if it succeeds, who’s to say that this will be the last ski resort in Saudi Arabia? The mountain area here could definitely accommodate an expanded area or even additional ski infrastructure if the demand is there.
So while NEOM and The Line could be a bit of a hot mess (I don’t see the Line being any kind of success tbh). As for Trojena? It could very likely be the jewel in the crown of the Saudi Arabian focus on sports.
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