Let It Snow, let it snow, let it snow

With Ski Dubai being the only indoor ski slope in the Middle East, it was essential to implement a unique FM solution and team to ensure it was, and still is, maintained to the highest standards. FM Middle East puts Ski Dubai in the spotlight.

Before it opened its doors, the closest people in Dubai ever got to snow was seeing it on the television or in magazines.

But Dubai being Dubai decided to change this and offer a unique experience to its locals and tourists.

Ski Dubai is situated in the Mall of the Emirates and at full capacity can hold 1500 people.

It’s home to five different runs, a 3000m2 snow park with a snow cavern and two cafes.

There are many other facilities offered to make sure customers’ visits are an experience they will never forget.

What they don’t realise is the amount of time and energy it takes to maintain and manage such a project.

Ski Dubai is run and maintained by MAF Dalkia, a joint venture between Majid Al Futtaim and Dalkia, one of Europe’s leading energy and facility management companies.

Because customers use the slopes and its facilities from 10:00am until 01:00am, maintenance is impossible.

This leaves around eight hours during the night and the early hours of the morning to make sure everything is perfect for the next batch of skiers who will expect impeccable snow and facilities the following day.

“We have to do the maintenance in short periods of time which is during the night.

Ski resorts shut down during the summer but we can’t do that.

The window for us to do all the maintenance is from midnight until 8am.

This is the time we have to produce snow,” says Maher Al Aghbar, client operations manager of Mall of the Emirates, MAF Dalkia.

The main thing Al Aghbar and his team have to worry about is keeping the place cool and producing the 30 tonnes of snow needed every night.

Managing the snow process is a BMS (building management system) uniquely adapted and designed by Siemens.

It is responsible for the cooling, snow making and the preservation of the snow.

The concept is a first for Siemens and Rizvi Javed, BMS co-ordinator for Ski Dubai.

“I am satisfied with the performance of the system from Siemens.

Even though the system is unique for us, it’s easy to understand,” says Javed.

 Let it SnowWe have 21 coolers and one ammonia plant room to help manage the cooling and snow making.

The BMS operates two different modes – operational and snow making.

The BMS used for the cooling and snow making is an automated process and doesn’t need any manual input – this in itself is a cost saving benefit as less staff are required.

The diagram above shows you how the real snow is produced.

The temperature needs to be kept at around –1.5 during the time it is used by consumers.

This needs to drop to around –8 before the snow making process can begin.

Al Aghbar says “the only difference between what we produce and what nature produces is that snow particles have around 20 to 50 thousand feet to hit the ground, Ski Dubai only has 18 metres.

“Our snow drops are very, very, very tiny.

You think it’s water until it starts to lay on your shoulders.”

But before the snowing can start, there is a process called defrosting.

“We have to do this on a daily basis to make sure we get the best temperature.

This process takes two and a half hours.

In the meantime, the fans are running at high speed to try and achieve –8,” explains Javed.

“In a short space of time we are operating from –1.5 to –6 or –8 so we have a refridgeration plant to give back up – we run two or three compressors at high speed and 100% load to achieve –8.

“Ammonia is limited to the plant room and from the plant room to the slope we have a medium called glycol which is a mixture of the glycol liquid and the water that is running at a rate of –19.

Ammonia is very dangerous so we don’t take any chances.

We give staff and customer protective clothing,” he adds.

The BMS is monitored in the main control room which is also home to 16 CCTV cameras, control panels for smoke extractors, fire alarms and elevators.

He delegates much of the responsibility to Paul Rivet, operations engineer of Ski Dubai.

Rivet manages a team of 12 technicians while there are two members of staff operating the BMS.

The team run a tight and successful operation at Ski Dubai, considering the uniqueness of the project.

“It’s all about good housekeeping, good usage of BMS and the right training for all the technicians,” explains Al Aghbar.

MAF Dalkia is the first company to negotiate a private link into the Dubai network police via Tetra (a digital system for mobile communication within the Mall).

The fire, safety and police all keep in touch using walkie-talkies and MAF Dalkia also has its own channel in case of emergencies.

However, with ski patrollers on the slopes and a strict health and safety policy in place, Javed says they have not had to report any fatalities.

But Al Aghbar admits there have been a few minor problems.

“Our BMS systems are the brain of the mall, currently we have six.

We are in the process of pulling all these systems together to make one BMS system as this wasn’t thought about during construction,” explains Al Aghbar.

“When we took it over it was, and still is, very difficult for us to run six systems.

Because we monitor it over 24 hours we need more operators.

“But bringing all the systems into one centralised control room so they can still be managed 24 hours a day will mean less operational costs,” he added.

They hope to have the systems integrated before the end of the year.

“Even though the mall has been fully operational for a year, we still have a lot of systems still being handed over to us.

We just received the fire system, before it was a stand alone system.

Now we are running it how it should be run.”

“Maintenance has to be done in short periods of time during the night.”

Chilling Facts:
- There are 21 coolers in Ski Dubai

- Ski Dubai is 22,500m2

- Temperature is maintained at around -1 to -2

- It is 85 metres high (approximately 25 stories) and 80 metres wide

- There are five different runs, the longest one being 400 metres

- When full, it can hold 1500 people

- 3,000m2 snow park with a snow cavern that reaches around -10

- Quad chairlift, tow life and flying carpets

- Equipment and clothing are provided

- State of the art ticketing system

- Changing areas with lockers

- St Moritz Café and Avalanche Cafe

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