ICE COOL DRIVING
If you are looking for one of the most unique and exclusive ice driving experiences – the type that you can brag to your mates about, but you can’t fit in a Northern Hemisphere trip, there is now an alternative in the South Island’s beautiful Cardrona Valley.
The Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds (SHPG), located between Queenstown and Wanaka in the Southern Alps, will open its new Ice Driving experience at the Snow Park this winter.
Designed to attract private and corporate groups, it will offer an exclusive ice driving opportunity, partnered with luxury five-star accommodation, exquisite cuisine, and true New Zealand hospitality in a spectacular and secluded alpine setting. Something about the event centre?
Manager Steve Gould says the truly exceptional feature of the facility is that it is the sole ice driving experience in the Southern Hemisphere, and the only one operating worldwide in July and August.
“It’s really unique, especially for Asia Pacific customers, who would traditionally have to travel to the Northern Hemisphere. The Snow Park Ice Driving Centre makes it a whole lot more accessible.”
The centre is set up to provide a once in a lifetime driving experience, presented by qualified instructors and in partnership with luxury European company Audi, which will supply the cars. Guests will experience first-hand the thrill of driving these brand new Audis on expertly prepared snow and ice tracks.
It is not a new concept for the SHPG – which is more commonly known as the industry-leading facility, where automobile manufacturers secretly test their cars - as it has been opening up its private grounds for groups to participate in corporate ice driving over the last three years.
“Last year it got to the level where it needed its own location and identity,” Steve explains.
So in 2013 SHPG purchased the existing Snow Park facilities, which are located right next door and include the Snow Park Event Centre.
It contains 16 luxury apartment style rooms – with a maximum onsite capacity of 32 people - along with the architecturally designed event centre, which includes a restaurant, bar, reception area and conferencing facilities for 100-plus people.
During the 2013/2014 summer, SHPG transformed this facility to include a completely new snow and ice driving area, nestled amongst the event centre.
“We now have the ability to offer fully private and exclusive groups the chance to experience ice driving whilst being accommodated and given the opportunity to conference and meet on-site. This way, corporate groups can maximise their time together and take away a memorable ice driving experience that will be talked about highly amongst friends for years to come,” Steve says.
Arriving in the evening, guests will be treated to locally crafted canapés and drinks at the Snow Park Event Centre. Then they can indulge in an
exquisite, four-course gala dinner from an a la carte regionally-themed menu, including dishes such as organic beef fillet, wild venison, free range pork, New Zealand lamb and fresh fish and game.
After a bountiful breakfast, guests will be introduced to their instructors, given a brief overview of the day’s activities and divided into groups. Once everyone has their winter gear ready, they will be primed to head out onto the snow and ice.
The day’s driving moves from an introduction to the cars, handling, tyres, plus ice and snow surface conditions, to over steer and under steer activities.
After morning tea the groups diversify into dynamic driving activities where guests will experience the thrill of drifting around a snow circle, or completing a slalom course and performing figure 8s. Following a hearty two-course lunch it is time to get sideways again and perform some autocross course timed laps.
The day culminates in exhilarating hot laps with the expert instructors and a prize giving. Guests can then either pack up and transfer back to Queenstown/Wanaka or they can add on a second night, enjoy a cold beer or mulled wine, kick back, relax and share a few stories with the instructors.
Supplied by specialist driver training company Downforce, the fullyqualified instructors will ensure the ice driving experience is designed as a progressive drive day, so it is achievable for all different levels of driving ability and group size.
Guests also receive photographs and certificates to take away, awards for fastest drivers / best teams and video footage on a USB for bragging later to the ones that couldn’t make it!
Once guests have had their fill of high-octane action driving on ice they can slip on their skis or boards and have some time on-piste. The Snow Park has retained its core alpine ski runs, which means corporate groups can utilise their own entirely private ski area with chair lift. It is one of the only privately hireable ski areas in the Southern Hemisphere.
Steve emphasises that the Snow Park Ice Driving Centre is entirely private and not open to the general public. It is aimed at attracting a mixture of conference, incentive, private and corporate and luxury travel groups, ideally made up of 10 to 30 people.
“Because the centre is completely exclusive and only operates a limited number of days per year, it will sell out, so it pays to book ahead,” Steve advises.
For this first year, the centre will be offering a day package, where clients can helicopter or drive in. They will be provided with morning tea and lunch, interspersed with an exciting drive programme on the ice.
The hospitality side of the ice driving will also help make it an experience to remember. The entire event centre is nestled closely together and within walking distance from all facilities. Moments after getting out of the driver’s seat, guests will be back in front of the big open fires in the cosy centre enjoying a hot drink and the best in Southern fare.
The centre’s experienced event staff can design a package specifically to meet any group’s business needs, whether it is a conference, meeting or product launch.
“We have a fantastic hosting facility and can build you a specific package that will allow you to tie in your day with that important meeting or presentation to your staff, partners, or key customers before you all head out and enjoy our ice driving experience,” Steve says.
The centre also has an array of additional “add on” activities to keep the whole group busy and incorporate a full day of team building and fun activities on the snow. As well as the private chair lift and alpine ski run – where instructors can be provided – there is also snow shoeing and sledding, husky sled dog rides, clay bird shooting, golf hole in one, curling, snow mobiling and Nordic skiing.
This entire Snow Park Ice Driving Centre package encapsulates the ultimate in what New Zealand has to offer in terms of location, hospitality, experiences and venues.
Getting there is either a one hour drive from Queenstown Airport or a 10 minute helicopter flight.
The Snow Park Ice Drive Experience and full venue hire are available from June 30 - July 28 2014, with other dates available on request.