Exclusive: Saudi Arabia’s NEOM reveals ‘significant progress’ on snow resort Trojena
Ground has been broken at the mega project, which will house 7,000 permanent residents and will see more than 700,000 annual visitors head to the facility that will be home to a ‘vertical village’, a ‘fun cluster’, shopping, nightlife and more on its winter slopes
It will be the first sub-zero snow destination and outdoor ski resort in the Gulf – and now developers behind Saudi Arabia’s mountain project Trojena– part of the Kingdom’s NEOM’s $500 billion mega project – have exclusively unveiled to Al Arabiya English how they are building the vast resort in the megacity's snow-capped district as they reveal “substantial” work is underway on the vast site.
Ground has been broken at the mega resort – which will eventually house 7,000 permanent residents and will see more than 700,000 annual visitors head to the Trojena, eventually home to a ‘vertical village’, a ‘fun cluster’, shopping, nightlife, more than 100 different sports, festivals, music and fashion events, and – of course – its winter slopes.
Philip Gullett, Executive Director of Trojena, told Al Arabiya English that the topography and cooler climates of Trojena - located in the Kingdom's highest mountain range in Tabuk – makes possible to provide a first-of-its-kind outdoor skiing experience in the GCC region.
“What is less-known about Trojena, however, is that it experiences natural snowfall each year with sub-zero temperatures throughout the winter months,” Gullett said. “All of this supports Trojena as a winter sports destination.”
An engineering feat
Building Trojena - first announced by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salmanin 2022 - is a massive engineering feat, said Gullett, given that the aim is to showcase the mountain destination as one of the most environmentally sustainable ski resorts in the world – in line with the wider green ambitions of NEOM. This means, exploring sustainable snow production, snow melt strategies and power requirements, he explained.
“To meet these requirements, we use renewable energy, minimize water usage and maximize water recovery. We will also operate the snow machines using NEOM’s renewable energy grid, which is carbon neutral and emits no greenhouse gases.”
With the wintery slopes planned to be the biggest draw at the ski resort, sustainable snow production in a country more closely associated with desertscape was one of the first requirements to be addressed.
The main skiing stretch at Trojena runs at an elevation of approximately 2,400 metres above sea level, explained Gullet. During the winter months, the temperature in Trojena can range from -17 degrees Celsius to 22 degrees Celsius, making it ideal for skiing.
The resort will comprise a mixture of dry ski slopes and surfaces as a foundation for both, natural as well as machine-made snow.
Approximately 75 percent of the slopes will be covered with machine-made snow, created in the “most sustainable way possible” by using only water and air as ingredients, said Hullet, adding, “No chemical additives will be used in Trojena’s snow production.”
“In terms of skiing, all energy used will be from renewable sources, with the water coming from zero discharge desalination plants. We expect to recover and recycle the melted water from the snow production from beneath the ski slopes.”
A man-made lake and a ‘vertical village’
An all-year Ski Village will incorporate “an elevated mixed-use village, integrating living spaces with activities, mobility and entertainment,” Gullett said.
The Ski Village offers a combination of mid to high-end hotels, offering a retreat after a day of adventure. Visitors to the Ski Village can experience a variety of outdoor pursuits – including snow skiing in the winter and other leisure activities for the rest of the year.
Other highlights of Trojena will include a man-made freshwater lake which aims to enhance livability for people and animals, offering a multitude of experiences, water sports and entertainment activities, with a Water Village located on the edge of the Lake.
The Ski Village and the Water Village will house high-end residential offerings, five-star hospitality units, fine dining options and retail outlets that will offer an unparalleled experience to residents and visitors alike.
Workers have also already broken ground on The Vault, a ‘vertical village’ within the mountain with a fusion of technology, residential, entertainment and hospitality facilities that will constitute the gateway to Trojena. Visitors and residents will be able to walk through lively streets to shop, dine and enjoy a vibrant nightlife.
Trojena’s Slope Residences will be located near the ski slope, overlooking the lake. It is being designed to blend with the surrounding landscape, offering luxurious mansions and exclusive high-end restaurants with panoramic views.
Overall, there will be 42,000 square meters of space for retail and dining outlets, as well as over 3,500 hotel rooms and serviced apartments.
‘More than just winter sports’
With its goal to be a one-of-a-kind regional and global destination all year round, offering more than just winter sports, Trojena’s annual calendar will include more than 100 indoor and outdoor activities.
In terms of adventure sports and activities, Trojena will provide opportunities for hiking, kayaking, water sports, skiing, zip lining, alpine coaster, mountain biking, skateboarding, bicycling, climbing, snow sports, ice skating and much more.
“An important point to add here is that we are aiming to broaden access to new sports – especially at the grassroots level – that were not previously an option for people in KSA and the GCC, fostering new sporting communities,” Gullett added.
However, Trojena’s offerings will not just be restricted to sporting pursuits. Across a year-round seasonal calendar, people can expect live concerts, music festivals, cultural events, art exhibitions, fashion shows and culinary fairs.
Progress so far
Significant work is under way in promoting Trojena’s development, said Gullett. “Since 2022, we have successfully excavated a total of 1.6 million cubic meters of material from the lake site in Trojena. The Ski Village, located in the Fun Cluster, and the Slope Residences, located in the Relax Cluster, are making noteworthy strides, with the basement works under way and their detailed and developed design advancing.”
While the concept design validation for the Ski Village was completed in November 2021, work on snow production and ski testing continue onsite.
Work is also progressing on The Vault, Trojena’s ‘vertical village’, with nearly one million cubic tons of rock already excavated and used for creation of the new lakebed.
Teams of workers are busy transforming the site’s rocky mountainous range into the vast year-round mountain destination that Trojena promises to be.
“The Kingdom has beautiful and diverse landscapes that are capable of offering citizens and visitors incredible and unique experiences,” he said. “Trojena is a prime example of how Saudi Arabia is creating destinations to leverage its geographical and environmental diversity and enhance its natural wonders,” he added.
“The Vault, for instance, is set between two mountain peaks, offering a dramatic introduction to the mountain landscape for people arriving at Trojena, while reducing the on-ground development footprint for the benefit of surrounding nature,” Gullett said.
“Also, the region is home to a considerable number of ski lovers who usually travel to Europe and other locations to be able to practise this sport. So, why not leverage the proximity and landscape to give them this experience at home or close to it?” Gullett further explained.
‘Something unique for the GCC’
According to Gullett, Trojena is much more than just a ski destination. It will offer something different and unique for the region as a year-round mountain destination with the perfect blend of nature, adventure, modern architecture, diversified entertainment experience and luxurious hospitality.
“Many countries have beautiful mountain destinations, but what makes Trojena stand out is the fact that it is sustainable and powered by renewable energy and is a year-round mountain destination offering diversified experiences way beyond winter sports,” he said.
The project strategists have segmented Trojena into unique zones, anticipating a diverse influx of tourists throughout the year.
From September to November, the spotlight will be on wellness, marked by the hosting of yoga retreats an other fitness events. Transitioning into December through March, the stage will be set for an array of snow-centric sports and activities.
From March to May, the allure of adventure will captivate outdoor enthusiasts drawn to high-altitude training, mountain biking, climbing and paragliding.
Meanwhile, the summer stretch from June onwards will pivot towards lake-oriented pursuits, encompassing culinary celebrations, artistic showcases and an array of culturally-rich offerings.
Trojena is expected to create more than 10,000 jobs and add SAR 3 billion to the Kingdom’s GDP by 2030.
A winter sports hotspot
Bringing winter sports to the country, Trojena is set to be the first major outdoor skiing destination in the GCC and will host the 2029 Winter Asian Games, making it the first nation in western Asia stage such an event.
With tourism being the highlight of this stellar project, five-star hotel brands are already queuing up to open their facilities in this mountain district.
Trojena’s first hospitality announcement, and the first for NEOM, was in November 2022, with the signing of a partnership with Ennismore Group, which is bringing two of their luxury hotels, 25hours and Morgans Original, to the iconic Ski Village.
This June, Minor Hoyels announced that their Anantara brand will open a five-star resort, set in the Water Village, as part of the Valley Cluster of Trojena.
Currently under development, the valley will be home to three developments centered on a 2.8km man-made freshwater lake. All rooms and suites at Anantara in Trojena will allow travellers to enjoy either a lake or a mountain view.
In January this year, it was announced that the Chedi Trojena will open in the development’s Relax Cluster, a community that’s billed as a place for reflection, recreation and rejuvenation.
The futuristic resort will be part of the Slope Residences, set among the region’s mountain peaks. It is being designed to blend seamlessly into the adjoining slopes and will be surrounded by nature trails, green spaces and open-air walkways.
Rooms and suites will offer views overlooking the Lake of Trojena.
“As part of our upcoming experiential re-imaging outdoor hospitality, we (have also) partnered with Collective Retreats to open a next-generation, ultra-sustainable retreat, featuring 60 open-air guest rooms, communal campfires and inspired culinary experiences,” said Gullett, adding that Trojena will help boost tourism as part of Saudi Arabia’s ambitious Vision 2030 plans, which aims to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy by stimulating fast-growing, high-potential sectors such as tourism.
Spotlight on sustainability
Sustainability is at the heart of Trojena – like the wider $500 billion NEOM mega project. Like NEOM’s other flagship locations – THE LINE, Oxagon and Sindalah – Trojena will be powered entirely by renewable energy and will be built to the highest sustainable standards.
In line with NEOM’s broader commitment to conservation, just 57 square kilometers of Trojena’s 1,400-plus square kilometer of total land area will be developed – which represents around five percent of the total area of the mountain resort.
“This will offer a new and unprecedented experience for visitors, guests and residents, which will be reflective of the future of living, working and entertainment at NEOM – all done sustainably,” Gullett said.
NEOM’s other highlights
Trojena is one of four major parts of NEOM, which has now moved to the building phase with the first destination.
It will also feature the luxury island Sindalah – the first destination set to open at NEOM, with the first batch of guests expected to step foot on the luxury island on the Red Sea in 2024. There, guests can expect to see a world-class yachting destination curated by a famed Italian designer, three mega luxury hotels, a golf course, an array of restaurants and an international luxury retail offering dubbed ‘The Village,’ which will be home to 51 luxury retail outlets.
Once open, the island will rival top global tourist destinations such as Monaco and Athens, with its year-long luxury offerings and position itself as a yachting and culinary destination.
NEOM will also feature Saudi Arabia’s revolutionary THE LINE project – a 170km -long city to eventually house up to nine million people and which will be the heartbeat of NEOM.
NEOM will also include OXAGON, a futuristic industrial city billed as the largest floating industrial complex in the world.
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