Image by Yvette Cardozo Getty Images

Picture this: it's 45°C outside, and you're wearing gloves and a hat and riding a chairlift through a faux alpine winter wonderland. Skiing in the desert? No problem. In Dubai, that is. Ski Dubai has delighted everyone from slope-starved expats to curious tourists and snow virgins since opening in 2005 as the first indoor ski park in the Middle East.

Of course, Ski Dubai's 'mountain' is an ant hill when compared with the Alps, but it's challenging enough for beginners, fun for intermediate skiers and a novelty for more advanced skiers. Tackle five ski runs (the longest being 400m with a 60m drop) and a Freestyle Zone with jumps, rails and a 90m-long halfpipe, both accessed by chairlift. All equipment is provided, including socks and skis, although gloves and hats must be purchased in the integrated store unless you happen to have your own. Newbies can learn the basics in the ski school.

Snow bunnies of all ages can also have fun in the enchanting ice sculpture–festooned Snow Park. Race each other on parallel bobsled tracks, tumble downhill in a giant plastic snowball or soar above the slopes in a 150m-long zipline (for an extra fee). You'll also need to shell out a few extra dirham to meet the resident gentoo and king penguins that strut their stuff around the Snow Park several times daily.

For the best free views of Ski Dubai from the mall, head to the 1st-floor viewing gallery. There's also a full-on view of the slopes from the Après restaurant on the same floor.