Imagine driving through an icy landscape with a bright blue sky above. The car rushes quietly over the frozen lake surrounded by dark green pine trees covered in thick layers of snow. Suddenly, there is a bend in the track, the car begins to slip and you are about to lose control. The rush of panic instantly turns into calm determination. Remembering your training, you steer into the slip and, with ease, you get the car back on track.
TEXT: MYRIAM DIJCK | PHOTOS: DAE
“This turning point is the most exciting part,” says Dutch Automotive Events (DAE) founder and director Wilfried Giesen. “When you are not afraid anymore and you feel in control as the car starts to break away. Then you can really start to enjoy the drifting or anti-spin.”
This is a snapshot of the Ice Drive Experience offered by DAE. Since 2010 the company has organised trips to Scandinavia and especially Sweden where participants can take the latest Volvo cars for a spin on a frozen lake. During the multi-day excursion, you do not just experience the beauty of the Scandinavian landscape in wintertime, you also learn how to control a car in the most extreme situations.
“The trips are not just about the rush of the drive, it’s about improving your driving skills and much more than that. They are a real experience you should do at least once in your life,” Giesen says.
While the focus is on the ice driving, cultural elements and Lapland activities are also included, such as riding snow scooters, doing a husky trip, going to an ice hotel or visiting the local Sámi population. Guests will stay in a luxury hotel in the idyllic surroundings of Arvidsjaur. He continues: “I also keep an eye out for the northern lights. That way, our guests can see them if they would like to, as otherwise, it usually means getting up in the middle of the night.”
DAE caters especially for two types of travellers. On one hand are the car enthusiasts and Volvo dealers who will take their clients on an exclusive trip to try out the new cars and all their latest features. On the other hand, are the dedicated mid-week courses for driving instructors, allowing them to renew their Dutch license (the WRM-certificate).
“While you probably won’t be driving in a metre of snow or on top of frozen lakes in the Netherlands, it is still useful to learn driving skills in this setting. If you know you can handle a car in the most extreme circumstances, then you’ll have the confidence to drive anywhere,” he says.
Improving your skills
DAE heads to Sweden every year for a six-week period from January to March. During these weeks there is guaranteed snow and the ice on the lake is thick enough for cars to drive over it. The trips are held in groups of 20, whereby there is one Volvo car per duo. The facilities include a 2.5-kilometre track and an oval track for oversteering and understeering, where participants can learn to drift.
“The area is so big, you can drive continuously and we keep expanding every year. We now also offer people the option to practice the ‘elk test’, whereby you have to steer around an object that suddenly appears in front of you,” he says.
Aside from the astonishing driving experience, the trips also help drivers to better understand the advanced driver-assistance systems (or ADAS) that are built in to all modern cars. “These systems require so much explanation. Instead, it is much easier to experience what they do. When we do the ice driving, we will switch the systems off one-by-one. This reveals how much they correct for the weather circumstances,” says Giesen. “By the end of the trip we make sure everyone can drive with confidence without assistance features.”
Scandinavian Car Rally
From a young age, Wilfried Giesen had a fascination for the stunning Scandinavian landscape. By offering driving experiences in Sweden he was able to combine this passion and his love for cars into one business. This began when in 2010 he organised the first Scan Covery Trial, a tenday 7,500-kilometre rally throughout Scandinavia.
It starts and finishes in the Netherlands and runs through stunning landscapes to eventually go beyond the Polar Circle. After organising the Scan Covery Trial for several years, Giesen set up DAE. Scan Covery Trial is held in January and the latest edition (January 2019) will be broadcast in the Netherlands on Saturday 24 November and 1 December on RTL7.