When Porsche, the builder of the rear-engined, flawed-from-the-get-go-but-somehow-fabulous 911, puts on a driving school, it's not a shallow shell of an experience, but a feast for all senses - a chance to stop and smell the roses on the way to sucking in some serious exhaust fumes.
Witness the Porsche Travel Club's inaugural U.S. event: Camp4 Colorado. This is a winter driving school that folds the spice of a car control clinic into the dough of a five-star mountain resort. The Porsche Travel Club has been in operation for more than ten years, and for 2007, has 85 events planned in 11 countries. Its mission is simple - take a trip in a special automobile to experience something truly special: from driving a Cayenne Turbo S on the sand dunes in Dubai to ice racing in Finland in a 911.
Camp4 Colorado might be the first event in the U.S., but it's no less spectacular than the others. On the ascent from the Lodge & Spa at Cordillera, (a 56-room, five-star hotel located on 7000 private, snow-covered, mountainous acres that serves as base camp for the trip) to the track, you quickly realize that the normally ber-athletic 911 Carrera 4S is struggling for breath just as much as you are. It's slower, yes, but it doesn't miss a beat as its flat six's exhaust thrums past the enormous private homes located within Cordillera's borders. The road is partially snow-covered, especially in many of the hairpin turns, which helps you avoid the temptation to make a full-bore run up the mountain.
At 9000 feet, you reach the summit - and the race course - and any expectation of a plebeian snow-covered parking lot littered with orange pylons vanishes. Over the past three months, Porsche crews have been on site painstakingly constructing a snow-covered course that is almost as breathtaking as the vista that surrounds it.
Porsche chose Cordillera's Summit Golf Course for this winter driving paradise. To ensure that no damage was done to the ground below, crews began compacting each load of snow as soon as it fell from the sky - and then spraying it with water. The result is a solid base of ice more than six inches deep.
As if ordered straight from Mother Nature, a few inches of soft snow has fallen on top of the ice in the past few days. The result is a glistening white blanket of paradise: a 200-foot-diameter skid pad and 750-foot slalom punctuate the twelve-turn, three-quarter-mile-long, 45-foot-wide ice track. Major elevation changes are the key feature here, with steep slopes and seriously off-camber turns.
The small group of participants was as diverse as the snow-covered landscape was homogenous - there were women in their thirties, men in their sixties, and everything in between; a Dutchman, an Irishman, and a gentleman from Tennessee; hopeless track addicts and drivers so timid that the mere mention of the word "sideways" would raise their blood pressure twenty points.