Overlooking faux ski fields, with faux fireplaces and faux fur throws – it sounds rather gauche but in fact, staying at the Aspen Ski Chalets at Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates Dubai is anything but. There is, quite simply, nothing else like it anywhere in the world and for a staycation, it’s luxurious, quirky and exceptionally good fun.
There are plenty of reasons the Kempinski already makes a fine choice for a city stay. Situated halfway between the two ends of Dubai, it's a breeze to reach anywhere, while being adjacent to the Mall of the Emirates makes it a no-brainer for shopping jaunts (even for residents). The hotel might be more than a decade old now, but it’s done an impressive job of keeping up appearances, coinciding its 10th anniversary last year with extensive renovations. Along with refurbishments to the opulent lobby, which feels modern and glistening, the refurb also saw the unveiling of the Aspen Ski Chalet extension, with 15 chalets boasting uninhibited views over the powdery white slopes of Ski Dubai, ranging from one-bedrooms up to a three-bedroom Aspen Ski Chalet, and an additional five Aspen Pool Chalets that lead directly to the rooftop pool deck.
Guests staying at these marvellous “hotel within a hotel” concept suites access the extension through set of silver and glass doors on the second floor, where the sense of entering a separate wing is heightened with the chalet’s signature scent – a subtle alpine-fused fragrance. Entering the two-storey Duplex Aspen Ski Chalet, which has two windows overlooking the slopes, instantly transports me to the mountains. Bathed in a rich colour palette of velvety browns and natural woods with faux stone walls above a fireplace (which crackles rather authentically), the split-level lounge room evokes the sensation of the Rockies. Festooned with subtle alpine accents, there are fur throws and cushions are arranged over soft sofas and armchairs, shelves that include an eclectic selection from Tom Ford coffee table books and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to De Profundis by Oscar Wilde, while black-and-white vintage skiing photographs add to the alpine vibe, as do the beamed ceilings and the colossal dining table. Carved from a single piece of wood, with antler-shaped chandeliers hanging above, it’s laden with decorative bowls filled with pine cones and the requisite sweets: handmade marshmallows and platters of chocolate-dipped strawberries.
There is a guest bathroom downstairs in addition to a kitchenette with a coffee machine, water and tea, along with glass jars filled with heavenly scented spices (ideal for a chai tea) from cinnamon sticks to hibiscus and dehydrated limes. But what wins me over are the transparent bodum mugs, the insides coated with chocolate or strawberry, ready to be filled with hot milk for an indulgent après-ski beverage.
Rizwan, our dapper Indian butler wearing coffee-coloured tails, is on hand to explain the chalet’s features. He leads us over to the windows to show off the main attraction, but we must be aware, he whispers discreetly – we will be in full view of everyone on the ski fields unless we draw the drapes, which are operated by the touch of a button. There’s more tech in the form of an iPad which guests can use to peruse hotel information and room service menus and the like, and summon the butler.
Staircases, carpeted luxuriously underfoot, lead off either side of the entrance to the bedrooms upstairs, and it’s a pleasure to pad up and down between the two levels. Hung with pendant chandeliers, vintage ski posters and more photographs, the stairwell has a charming, homely aesthetic. Upstairs, the two bedrooms overlook the pool area with views of the Burj Al Arab, and the standard of finishing is impressive, with flatscreen televisions embedded into the wall, alcoves with ample plugs, Voss water and lights at either side of the bed, and subtle night lights that switch on automatically beneath the cupboards upon approach. The marble bathrooms, divided from the bedrooms with wooden partitions and featuring Kohler vanities and freestanding tubs, include a generous array of Hermès eau d’orange verte amenities and plush robes with the chalet suite’s unique logo (a half snowflake, half sun) embossed on the chest.
It is something of a shame there is no balcony off either of the bedrooms, or off the Ski Dubai side. It would be such fun to cosy up with blankets and a hot chocolate overlooking the slopes, but clearly temperature-keeping at a ski field in the desert is an art form – even inside the chalet suite, where there is a humidifier, a faux fireplace, and air conditioning running all at once. I feel a pang of environmental guilt, but have to smile at the “only in Dubai” experience of staying in a chalet overlooking ski fields, indulging in a Levantine lunch at Olea (the made-to-order smoothies are a must), and donning swimwear to for an afternoon dip in the pool.
In the evening, as we ready for dinner at the lively Salero Tapas & Bodega eatery downstairs, the ski fields and snow park are as busy as a peak-hour freeway. Even when we return, stuffed silly after gorging on sangria, tapas and exquisite almond ice cream, to collapse on the sofa, the slopes are active long into the night. Open until midnight, there’s really no need to switch on the television when from the comfort of an armchair, you can watch advanced skiers slalom, beginners snow plough into orange safety nets and novice thrill-seekers clamber into rings or enormous transparent balls, which roll comically down the lower sections of the slopes. In the morning, it’s an entirely different scene, with blind skiers and toddler ski schools taking advantage of the empty runs. It’s at this hour when the Snow Park too, is quiet, and with every stay at in the duplex chalet including complimentary access, it’s the ideal time to take advantage.
Even if you never make it downstairs for wintry fun, a stay in the Aspen Ski Chalets is immensely enjoyable – a one-of-a-kind experience with all the trimmings of a five-star Gulf stay.
THE IMPORTANT BIT:
What: Duplex Aspen Ski Chalet
Where: Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates Dubai
Tel: +971 4 341 0000