Submitted by Chuck Krause
You ease onto the accelerator a little bit more as the speedometer climbs. 50… 60… 70 kph. The dense fir trees disappear behind you as the sky opens up. Suddenly, it’s just you and a massive blue-white landscape of the frozen lake unfolding below as your needle climbs. 80… 90… 100…
Then, you lift off the gas slowly, tip the steering wheel ever so slightly to the right …and you dance. Your car gracefully slides into the gentle turn as nearly all of your momentum carries you forward. For a second, instincts kick in. “Tap the brakes!” your brain yells. But you know that would do as much good as getting out and pushing at this point. Instead, you poke the throttle again as your studded tires bite into the ice. Your car exits the turn, rights itself and prepares for the next elegant manoeuvre.
This experience describes the unique thrill of ice driving, a combination of drifting, tracking and waltzing that demands absolute concentration. Despite the limitations of low friction, your possibilities open up into infinity in front of you with no traffic, trees, or guard rails to get in your way. You also get a rare chance to test out your studded winter tires, combining delicate footing with controlled thrusts of power.
Only a few places in the world offer this one-of-a-kind moment where earth and sky blend into one. Plan your ultimate trip to the frozen, dark extremes of the planet and test your absolute driving limits on the ice by taking a trek to one of the following best places for ice driving in the world.
The snow banked courses cutting through the Alpine village of Livigno are no stranger to the world’s most beautiful cars. Here, supple Lamborghinis, Ferraris and others break in their tires, steering and traction control systems in the most extreme conditions imaginable. By night, drivers can return to a blazing fire in their lodge as they sip fresh ground cappuccino and talk about their day’s exploits.
Just over an hour north of Montreal, holiday-goers and locals enjoy a winter paradise along the Lac des Sables. Their tranquil skiing, sledding and fishing activities are only occasionally interrupted by bursts of engine noise from the Ice Driving Canada school. Here, personalised coaching and exhilarating ice circuits help you build skills from behind the wheel of the school’s fleet of Porsche Boxsters.
Looking for ice driving in the U.S. of A? Aspen, Colorado is the only place cold enough yet prestigious enough to catch the attention of Ferrari and Lamborghini’s snow driving school experts. Learn how to navigate the ice with poise and dignity, and then throw all that out the window as you challenge your companions to ice karting in nearby El Jebel. Afterwards, enjoy world-class shopping, dining and entertainment in one of the most luxurious resort towns in the world.
Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground, New Zealand
New Zealand’s verdant Tolkien-esque landscapes give way to harsh snow and ice as its South Island stretches towards the Antarctic Circle. Here, you’ll find the only place for true ice driving in the entire southern hemisphere (unless you’re planning an expedition to Antarctica).
The Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground plays host for testing and ice driving instructional courses from some of the biggest names in performance auto. With 880m ice circles and sprawling ice flats, you can push your performance snow tires to the limit before island hopping to discover exotic locales and remote forests.
Every winter, the water upon Khövsgöl Nurr — Mongolia’s second-biggest lake — freezes into slabs of ice five feet thick. During this time, Mongolia hosts festivals that feel part Burning Man, part Cannes depending on where you happen to glance. People challenge each other to rally races, sled races, camel races and more upon the lake’s ice, and then they retire to enjoy festivities. Sip strong beverages out of ice mugs, and warm yourself by the bonfire burning in the middle of the lake for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Of the Scandinavian countries, Finland boasts the largest ice driving proving grounds in the world.
Yet, Sweden’s ice driving courses in the Lapland could give them all a run for their money. Dozens of driving schools and auto manufacturers — from Volvo to VW to Aston Martin — operate ice driving instructional courses and experiences here. You’ll find wide open lakes and frozen Baltic harbors with nothing around for miles, making for the most joyful and unrestrained ice driving opportunities open to the public on planet Earth.
Performance Ice Driving Requires Performance Studded Winter Tires
Make sure that no matter what vehicle you take on the ice, you bring a set of studded winter tires designed for adding traction on slippery ice. You will also want high-performance wheels that can handle the cold weather stress while retaining their structural integrity.
Give your vehicle a thorough check before entering the ice, stay wary, obey all local ice driving ordinances and — above all else — have fun. Your worldwide adventure at the frozen top and bottom of our wonderful planet awaits.
Chuck Krause is Wheelfire Blog’s managing editor. Since the early 2000’s, he has managed and owned a number of internet retail stores in the automotive parts industry. He is an especially enthusiastic owner of his off-road “monsterised” Jeep Wrangler. A fixture in every summer’s Jeep jamboree, (where his reputation for extreme mudding and trail riding are legendary) Chuck is well known for his infectious passion and knowledge about all things automotive.