Positive future tipped for ice-driving venture

Downforce instructor Tim Martin slides an Audi RS4 expertly around a corner at the Ice Drive at Snow Park familiarisation session this week. Photo by Geoff Marks
Downforce instructor Tim Martin slides an Audi RS4 expertly around a corner at the Ice Drive at Snow Park familiarisation session this week. Photo by Geoff Marks
The Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground (SHPG) was full to capacity last week, yet the team there could still find room to slip in a quick ice-driving session.

Sixteen car companies were industriously testing their vehicles at the SHPG facilities, when the Otago Daily Times joined a group of 20 for a familiarisation experience with Ice Drive at Snow Park.

Each company was assigned its own workshop and office facilities on the Pisa Range - secluded from any public prying eyes.

On the former Snow Park slopes a United States junior ski team had exclusively hired out a ski lane and was clinically clocking up the race kilometres.

The clients all contributed to the more than 5000 bed nights SHPG was responsible for in Queenstown and Wanaka each year, Ice Drive at Snow Park, manager Steve Gould said.

Meanwhile, out on the former 350m by 60m Snow Park car park, our group was treated to several hours of instructor-led sliding of the resident Audis on snow.

After the oversteer, understeer, figure-eight and time-trial tracks were cleared away by the grooming team, a car company was booked to take over the space that evening.

The ability to ''stay flexible'' was vital to the sustainability of the Ice Drive at Snow Park, Mr Gould said.

''It needs to fit in around the testing. This year is a good year for testing and we are booked up pretty much right through. Ten or 12 days is the only time we have available. Next year we will book out a week at a time.''

While Ice Drive at Snow Park is a subsidiary company of SHPG and has begun this year as a mostly corporate group-focused activity, it has the opportunity to snowball.

''The great advantage of this is if it needs to become dedicated, it will. That's the direction it's taking,'' Mr Gould said.

Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore welcomed the Ice Drive at Snow Park as a ''valuable addition'' to the region's portfolio of on-snow winter activities.

''The ice-driving experience will not only help raise the profile of Lake Wanaka as a conference destination, but more importantly help bring additional business opportunities to the region's operators that work in the conference and incentive market, such as, accommodation providers, function venues, activity operators and restaurants,'' he said.