There's lots about the emirate of Dubai that makes westerners shake their heads. There's the Burj Khalifa, the tallest manmade structure in the world at 829 metres, or 2,723 feet — roughly the altitude of the Chic Pea from the base of Whistler Mountain. There's the "Palm Islands" created in the shape of palm trees — the world's largest man-made island where wealthy foreign bankers build their estates. There's the worlds' largest dolphin pond, the world's largest shopping mall, the world's toughest F1 tracks, one of the world's biggest waterparks, the world's highest tennis court on a helipad near the top of the Burj Dubai (it's mostly a helicopter landing pad), one of the largest aquarium tanks in the world, the first and only skating rink in the Middle East — and the list goes on.
But for people living in Whistler, one of the main points of interest has to be Ski Dubai, the world's third-largest indoor ski slope with 22,500 square metres, or 242,188 square feet, of space. While there are other indoor ski hills in the world, none are so close to the equator, or are open for skiing when the outside temperature is over 40 degrees Celsius.
For Otto Kamstra, who was recently hired to provide a thorough assessment of the Ski Dubai facility and its ski school program — as well as a Level 1 instructor's course for its multinational crew of instructors — the experience was too good to pass up.
"One thing I learned about the Middle East is that they are very savvy business people, and they want to learn the best practices of any business they get into," he said.
The owner of Ski Dubai is also the owner of the Mall of the Emirates, a high-end mall with over 520 stores that used to be the second-largest mall in the world. It caters mainly to high-end brands and every year 31 million people pass through its doors. Ski Dubai is an attraction for the mall and draws in millions of curious visitors, from sightseers to school groups to skiers working on their techniques before heading to Europe or elsewhere.
Kamstra, recently returned form Dubai, said his role is to ensure that customer service and ski school staff are as professional as they can be, while setting up the business systems to help everything run smoothly. Right away he was impressed.
"There are a lot of things that they do very well," he said, starting with a level of customer service that is higher than almost anywhere he's ever visited. They are also fanatical about learning the business.
"One thing they really want is for someone to teach them how to teach," he said. "It's not necessarily about knowing how to ride or ski. For example, they're looking for a lot of knowledge about teaching kids because they understand that's the key to building long-term skiers.