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In burning heat, Pakistanis find respite at a winter-themed park

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

I just looked up the temperature in Lahore, Pakistan, and it's 96 degrees, which is normal for Lahore about any time of year. And that is why people are drawn to an indoor snow park. Reporter Betsy Joles was too.

BETSY JOLES, BYLINE: Inside Winterland, Muhammad bin Mohsin and Musa Qureshi sit underneath an artificial snow machine. They've come to the park almost every other day since it opened in June.

MUHAMMAD BIN MOHSIN: It's like the 15th time. We mostly come one day, leave one day, and then...

JOLES: The appeal of Winterland is pretty straightforward for Lahoris. Inside, it's cold, and outside, it's really hot. In the summer, temperatures in Lahore consistently hover around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The air is thick with humidity, and you're sweaty pretty much all the time. Winterland is maintained at a chilly 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Qureshi says people come just to hang out in the cold.

MUSA QURESHI: I'm seeing a lot of people enjoying and escaping the heat of the summer here.

JOLES: Lahore doesn't see freezing temperatures, but other areas in Pakistan do. The country is home to one of the world's highest peaks, and the northern areas resemble a winter dreamscape when blanketed by snow.

In a side room, Nazim Hussain Shahid takes a break before going back into the park. He said many Pakistanis have never seen snow in their own country, and the current economic situation doesn't help. He and his cousins drove more than four hours from another city for the experience. They take NPR for a tour. There are ice bikes, ice bumper cars and ice slides.

NAZIM HUSSAIN SHAHID: First we have to take the slide kit from here. Then we have to go outside. Then we have to come here.

JOLES: Sledders climb ice stairs and ride the frozen chutes back down.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLED BUMPING)

JOLES: Winterland is inspired by the Harbin Ice Festival, an annual event in northeastern China famous for its epic ice sculptures. The structures in Winterland Lahore were created by designers from Harbin, who came to Pakistan for the task. The difference, of course, is that Harbin in the winter is naturally cold, and Lahore in the summer is not. Ali Chaudhry, chairman of Winterland Pakistan, said maintaining the cold conditions inside is a major task.

ALI CHAUDHRY: Actually, power - yeah, that's the biggest challenge. We have almost three generators lined up as a backup because if we switch down, everything going to melt.

JOLES: Winterland buys around 8,000 blocks of ice from factories that mass produce them in Lahore. The blocks are transported by truck at night, wedged together tightly to prevent them from melting. Once inside, the ice stays frozen as long as the temperature is maintained. Chaudhry thinks the effort that goes into cooling Winterland is worth it because of the demand for indoor activities in hot climates.

CHAUDHRY: It's a big requirement over there.

JOLES: Visitors seem to welcome the escape. On the day NPR visited in mid-July, Winterland was packed, even late into the night. Nineteen-year-old Yamsheen Saqib sees the connection between climate extremes and these kinds of attractions.

YAMSHEEN SAQIB: Global warming and climate change - it's just going to get worse if you see the stats. So I think there are going to be more places like this.

JOLES: And as it gets hotter in Pakistan, there will likely be a greater fascination with snow, even if it's being made by a machine.

For NPR News, I'm Betsy Joles in Lahore, Pakistan.

(SOUNDBITE OF SLEEPY FISH'S "FALL'S ECHO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Betsy Joles

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