x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Santa 'stunt double' rugs up on indoor slope

Father Christmas actor piled on layers and layers of undergarments before he made his debut at Ski Dubai.

Santa Claus is mobbed by children, holding out their hands to receive gifts at Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates.
Santa Claus is mobbed by children, holding out their hands to receive gifts at Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates.

DUBAI // Freezing temperatures should be no problem for Santa, but the fellow who calls himself the "stunt double for the jolly fat man" is leaving nothing to chance in Ski Dubai this year.

The actor piled on layers and layers of undergarments before he made his debut at the indoor snow park last night.

"This is the first time I've played Santa in sub-zero temperatures," said the Briton, who declined to give his name as he did not wish to be inextricably linked with his character.

"Doing it here presents several challenges, most of which I hope will be overcome by thermal underwear."

The National was given a rare peek behind the scenes at Ski Dubai as Santa and his "little helper", the dancer Abbie Rabot, 18, made preparations for their first appearance.

The pair arrived early for their first five-hour shift to be given a tour of the fire exits of the snow park, as well as being briefed on what to do if they encountered snowball-throwing teenagers.

They were told to change into their outfits in a storeroom, which was used to house more than 80 brown boxes containing small toys that Santa would hand out over the next 10 days.

While getting dressed, Santa "popped a rivet" on his large black belt - testament, he said, to "too many mince pies". He was hired by the Dubai talent agency Red Eye Entertainment, which had paid special attention to ensuring he had the "correct physique", said the company's project manager James Pritchard.

"Usually the people we pick to be Santa are actors," Mr Pritchard said. "They have to be of a larger-than-life personality. It certainly helps if they fit the stereotype - a jolly man, a bit larger around the midriff."

After a scrabble to find a sack to carry the presents and some double-sided tape to hold the wispy nylon beard in place, the festive couple were ready to go.

Santa's voice dropped several octaves as he began to get into character.

"Have you been good boys this Christmas?" he boomed at staff in the storeroom, most of whom smiled back awkwardly.

Both Santa and Ms Rabot, who had by this time been dubbed "Holly", made their way out into the snow park.

They were immediately mobbed by children, holding out their hands to receive a toy from Santa's improvised sack.

Nolan Dunseath, 8, from the UK, shrugged at the toy car he had been given.

"I want a laptop and an iPhone 4S for Christmas," Nolan said.

To celebrate the festive period, Ski Dubai is asking children to write wish-lists to Santa on its Facebook page. Two winners will have dinner with Santa before he leaves Dubai to deliver presents around the world on Christmas Eve.

Sherif Hashem, the marketing manager at Ski Dubai, said there were no promises whether children would get exactly what was on their list.

"We'll look into it," he said. "If it's something small then possibly, but if it's a Hummer it might be difficult."

Some Christmas wishes were more modest than others. One of the first children Santa greeted yesterday evening was Zara Himi, 3, from the UK, who asked for a yo-yo.

Her mum, Laura Himi, shrugged. "Last week it was a ladder," she said.

mcroucher@thenational.ae