Parties in the desert snowed out by latest fad

Desert Snow can create a winter wonderland all year round.

Ben Elliott-Scott, managing director of Desert Snow, sprays a typical street side scene in Jumeirah with artificial snow typically used on movie sets and stages. ANTONIE ROBERTSON / The National
Powered by automated translation

DUBAI // In the middle of summer, Ben Elliott-Scott has created a winter landscape in his neighbour's front garden in Jumeirah.

Over the course of an hour, trees, grass and even a parked car acquired a heavy coating of snow.

Of course, the white stuff had not miraculously fallen from the cloudless skies. It was artificial.

It is demonstrations like this that have helped spark interest in the UAE's newest "winter effects" company from events organisers across the city.

In the three months since it was incorporated in Dubai, the company has created snow for TV adverts, weddings and themed parties at Nasimi Beach, in Atlantis.

"It looks and acts just like real snow. You can make snowballs out of it," said Mr Elliott-Scott, the managing director of Desert Snow.

His company is the authorised dealership for the UK-based Snow Business, used in such Hollywood films as Gladiator and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Mr Elliott-Scott has many words for snow. His company makes products including settled snow, indoor display snow, ice effect gel and falling snow.

"Falling snow can be used anywhere, from banquets to nightclubs," said Mr Elliott-Scott. "It can fall in your eyes or in your drink and it's completely safe."

Other types of snow, like settled snow, are made from cellulose, a kind of pulped paper. Mr Elliott-Scott said the company had already received dozens of bookings for December, when winter-themed functions become the staple of the events industry.

Even so, he points to attractions such as Ski Dubai and the Chill Out ice bar in Dubai's Times Square mall, as examples of the demand for year-round frosting.

At the height of summer in 2009, a truckload of real snow from Ski Dubai was shipped on refrigerated lorries to Abu Dhabi to build a temporary ski slope at a cost of around Dh100,000 for Adrenaline Sports Live at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.

"It's a very niche market but we think there's some growth in it," he said. "Even so, I don't expect us to be packing our bags and going to Barbados next year."

Despite looking like real snow, none of Snow Business's products will cool you down. On the flip side, none will melt.

Mr Elliott-Scott said the company was considering buying a snow cannon next year, but would have to see first if the demand was there.

In the meantime, those desperate enough can buy real snowballs, packaged in Norway and sent to the UAE in refrigerated transport."It's ridiculously expensive but it is there if people want it," he said.

The prices range widely depending on one's ambitions. To rent a small machine to make falling snow, for two hours of snowflakes, can cost just over Dh3,000.

But a large event with frost, settled snow, falling snowflakes and many more winter effects can cost up to Dh150,000.

Casual consumers, however, can buy a box containing enough artificial snow to fill a seven-metre square area with a 1cm-deep cover of snow for Dh500.

It takes only about an hour to completely clean up. The majority of it is swept up, with the remainder easily turning into mush and acting as fertiliser for the soil.

As to the display in his neighbour's garden, Mr Elliott-Scott has been asked to leave it a little longer.

"Our neighbour wants us to keep it overnight so she can give her husband a surprise when he comes back home," he said.