How will Saudi Arabia's Neom host the 2029 Asian Winter Games?

Skiing and other winter sports are coming to the kingdom’s Trojena mountain resort

The design plan for Trojena, a region of Saudi Arabia's planned Neom mega-city that has been chosen to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games. AFP
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Saudi Arabia is set to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at a mountain resort in the planned futuristic city of Neom.

The kingdom will be the first nation from the Middle East to host the event, which features skiing, skating, ice hockey and other winter sports.

The games are set to take place in Trojena, a yet-to-be-built region of Neom located in the kingdom’s north-western mountain range, which is being billed as a new tourist destination for winter sports.

“The deserts and mountains of Saudi Arabia will soon be a playground for winter sports,” said the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) as it announced the decision.

Here is everything you need to know.

What are the Asian Winter Games?

The Asian Winter Games are a winter sports tournament for Asian nations.

Events include Alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, ski jumping, snowboarding, ice hockey, curling and speed skating, among other winter sports.

The games are organised by the Olympic Council of Asia, and all 45 Asian National Olympic Committees are invited to participate.

The Asian Winter Games were launched in 1986 and are supposed to take place every four years, but were cancelled in 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2017 games were held in Sapporo and Obihiro in Japan. Thirty-two nations took part in 11 sports, with the hosts topping the medal table with 27 golds.

South Korea, China, Kazakhstan and North Korea were the only other nations to win medals in 2017.

Saudi Arabia will be the first nation in western Asia to host the games, and only the second outside of East Asia after Kazakhstan hosted the event in 2011.

The OCA schedule does not have any winter games planned for 2025.

Where will Saudi Arabia host the Asian Winter Games?

Saudi Arabia is set to host the games in Trojena, a planned region of the $500-billion mega-city that is one of the central pillars of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 development plan.

The Neom site is in the country’s north-western corner, close to the Jordanian border and the Red Sea.

Trojena will be located 50 kilometres inland from the coast, in the mountainous Tabuk region.

The official website describes Trojena as “a unique year-round mountain destination” that will host a 2,400-metre-high ski village among other entertainment and tourist sectors.

The kingdom says that Trojena will be completed by 2026, in time for the games three years later.

What will Neom’s Trojena development look like?

While Trojena does not yet exist, the official plans showcase a varied mountain tourism development made up of six specialised districts.

The picturesque site is high up in Saudi Arabia’s mountainous Tabuk region, with elevations ranging from 1,500 metres to 2,600 metres.

Interactive images on the Trojena site show futuristic developments spread along a mountainous valley, with a “precision-engineered” man-made lake running through the centre.

The high-altitude Ski Village is set to host winter sports by day and serve as an outdoor entertainment venue by night, with a five-star hotel housing guests.

Other features of the site include a “futuristic folded-vertical village” known as The Vault, an observatory viewing platform and a complex of hotels, luxury residences and restaurants.

Does it snow in Saudi Arabia and can you go skiing?

Saudi Arabia is not commonly associated with snow and winter climates — much of the kingdom is made up of desert landscapes, including the famous Empty Quarter in the south.

However, the kingdom is home to a range of geographies, including mountain ranges where it even snows.

In the Tabuk region, where Trojena is planned, snow commonly falls in winter, especially around the peak of Jebel Al Lawz.

The south-western Asir region, at the other end of the long Hejaz Mountains range to Trojena, was also carpeted in snow in 2018.

Despite this mountain geography, there are currently no outdoor skiing resorts in Saudi Arabia.

Snow covers Saudi Arabia's Tabuk region — in pictures:

Updated: October 07, 2022, 11:27 AM
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