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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.

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