Last week we were guests of Porsche at the Sugarbush Resort in Vermont. We were invited up to take part in the Porsche Winter Driving Experience 2013, a first of its kind event for Porsche in the North East. Below you'll learn just what is the Porsche Winter Driving Experience, what we did and how you can get a shot at participating in a future event.
What Is the Porsche Winter Driving Experience?
Think of it as a mini Camp4. In theory, it's a marketing event put together by the Porsche corporate marketing team and supported by the local area dealers. In practice, it's a way for Porsche to showcase just how well Porsches can handle snow and ice to current and prospective customers. In fact, after this event, we're convinced that even the most powerful 911 can be a year round driving option.
Watch The Video. It Explains The Event Very Well
What Did We Do at the Event?
We arrive at Sugarbush Resort mid-afternoon on Tuesday and check into Clay Brook (sixty-one luxury slope side residences which range from studios to five-bedroom suites). We haven't been to Sugarbush in years and we're pleasantly surprised at how nice the new resort is. In fact, while Porsche is taking care of our first night's lodging, we opt to extend our stay and enjoy the resort on our own after the event. More pictures of the event, the resort and our drive through Vermont are available on our Facebook Page.
Once checked in we explore our room and resort before making our way down to the "Owners' Lounge" for a welcome reception where we get to meet our local Porsche hosts and the other participants. After some friendly conversation, Hors d'œuvres and a glass of wine it's off to dinner. If you ever have a chance to visit Sugarbush be sure to try out Timbers Restaurant for some of their dry aged steak. The service was incredible (Marcus the manager goes out of his way to make you comfortable) and the Filet Mignon was even better. So far, so good and tomorrow will only get better once the Porsches are introduced to the mix.
Time to Drive Porsches on Ice
We wake up early on Wednesday and head down for a quick buffet breakfast with some of the other participants before we all pile into a couple of vans and drive over to the resort's golf course. With temperatures hovering just below zero, and the wind chill making us wish we were back in bed, it seems odd to be going "golfing". Arriving at the course we find it no longer recognizable as the challenging 18 holes designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones, Sr. Instead, it's transformed into a winter playground for Porsches.
Porsche has planned this event for months and teams have visited the resort a number of times to map out and design the course. Not quite as large at the real Camp4 course, our venue is set-up with a packed ice and snow covered track along the perimeter and an icy skid-pad at its center. However, it seems we'll have to wait a bit longer before we get to play.
The first order of business is an introduction to the program and a safety briefing from none other than Cass Whitehead (Lead Instructor at the Porsche Sports Driving School). Cass goes through everything from the basics of proper driving position to explaining under and over-steer for those not familiar with what they'll experience out on the track. Once he's done it's time to start driving.
Because this is as much a marketing event as it is a fun day of winter driving, Porsche wants us to experience their cars on the road in real-life driving conditions before we get to play on the track. Sounds good to me. We head out to the parking lot and a line-up of new Porsche Cayenne Diesels and Panameras await us.
Our hosts have planned out a 90 minute loop that give all participants at least 30 minutes seat-time each in the Panamera and the Cayenne. Our route takes us through the picturesque Vermont countryside and to a local coffee shop for warm cider, coffee and Porsche shaped cookies. All very nice, but let's get on the track!
Finally It's Track Time
We make our last stop to switch drivers and head back to the converted golf course. When we arrive the PSDS crew has five 911s waiting for us on the track, all of the new 991 C4S variety. Because of the extremely cold temps we spend just a few minutes outside where we're all reminded that we can play with "Sports" mode as much as we want but to please leave the PSM engaged (a wise precaution for a bunch of rookie ice drivers).
We start our laps with a sedate lead/follow in order to get a feel for the track. As we make our way around the course our lead instructor is in front providing commentary on proper lines and what to look for via a communication system set up in each of our 911s. Our choice of the last C4S in line turns out to be a good one as we could let a large gap build up between us and the car in front. This way we get to a play a bit harder than maybe intended (but don't tell anyone).
Once we finish a few laps of lead/follow it's time to pick-up the pace and get a feel for just how good the C4S is in the winter conditions. This time, the right 911 was the second in line as the instructor was in front of us and there was no way we could keep up (although we did try). With snow tires and PSM engaged it seemed as if it would be impossible to make a misstep no matter how fast we got going. It should be noted that our instructor was in a rear-wheel drive Carrera S and he still left us, and the group, so far behind I'm sure he could have lapped the last one in line if he wanted to.
Time to Try the Skidpad
In this exercise we're paired with an instructor and a rear-wheel drive Carrera S. The objective is to feel the difference in how the two-wheel and four-wheel drive versions handle the snowy conditions, but it's hard not to feel like the goal is simply to have fun.
We start out slowly with the instructor providing throttle and steering suggestions from the passenger seat. With confidence comes speed and it's easy to feel the fine line between control and a spin. Unfortunately, we cross that line a lot.
All too quickly our time on the track and skidpad comes to an end. Remember this is just a taste of what the real Camp4 is like so driving time is greatly reduced. However, it still an outrageously good time. Hopefully, Porsche will invite us back again next year.
How You Can Participate in the Next Porsche Winter Driving Experience
This year's Porsche Winter Driving Experience was by invitation only. The dealer's that participated (we'll list them for you below) invited guests and prospects of their choosing. If you really need another reason to go look at new Porsches, the Winter Driving Experience should do it for you. Build a relationship with your local dealer and there's a chance you could get an invite next time around.
Porsche told us that this year's event was such a success that they plan to expand for next year and offer it to a "broader base" with a different reservation system. Maybe that means you'll be able to reserve a space for yourself. As soon as we learn more we'll let you know!
Other Porsche Blog Posts You'll Enjoy
How Much Does it Cost and What’s it Like to Participate in Porsche’s Camp4 Canda? [Video]
Michelin Tire School. What Is It and Why Did We Go?
5 Things I Learned at the Porsche Sport Driving School
Winter Tires for Your Classic Porsche
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