Dubai might not be the place that comes to mind when one thinks of winter sports. But there will be snow in the desert for the World Para Snowboard World Cup season kick-off on Wednesday (7 November).
The first ski resort in the Middle East, Ski Dubai hosts for the first time a major international snowboard competition with 36 athletes from 13 countries.
The two-day banked slalom event will feature some of the best riders in the world, such as PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympics medallist Chris Vos of the Netherlands.
“It is almost real snow. It is crazy but it is really good,” said Vos, who is also the reigning world champion in the men’s SB-LL1 class. “The course is good, they’ve done a pretty good job for indoors. Everybody is happy, Dubai is a great city and I love to be here.”
Among the other PyeongChang 2018 medallists in action are Australia’s Simon Patmore and USA’s Mike Minor in the men’s SB-UL class.
On the women’s side, Dutch two-time Paralympic medallist Lisa Bunschoten will face fierce competition from compatriots Anne Garttener and Renske van Beek in the women’s SB-LL2.
But once the competition is over, van Beek says the rival teammates will all head to the same place to relax.
“It is a super cool, crazy thing that they’ve got a snow slope in the desert. We have one in the Netherlands but it is also cold outside. Here we can go to the beach to recover,” she said.
The World Cup riders had a chance to test the course on Tuesday (6 November) during the World Para Snowboard Asian Cup.
The competition also served as a first international experience for many new athletes such as 19-year-old US rider Garrett Geros.
“It was nerve wracking, I was really nervous but I tried to turn it into a good thing. It’s a lot different [than my previous competitions] the vibe you get around here,” Geros said.
The 2018-2019 season includes six World Cups and the World Championships which will take place in Pyha, Finland, from 26-31 March 2019.