GIMLI, Canada — Whether you’re a seasoned pro born in the frosted forests of Scandinavia or a rank amateur from the sunny streets of Los Angeles, the Mercedes-AMG Winter Sporting driving school in Gimli, Manitoba, Canada, is the ideal place to acquire or perfect low-friction skills.
The cars on offer span most of the range of AMG’s retail equipment, including the CLA 45, C 63 S, and E 63 S. Lightly modified electronics allow greater throttle and brake overlap (a helpful if not necessary feature for driving quickly on ice), and the cars wear custom studded tires and small carbon-fiber frames to reinforce their bumpers in the inevitable event of a meeting with a snowy bank—but they are otherwise standard street cars.
Gimli is a small resort town founded by Icelandic immigrants. The tracks, carved on a lake beside the event hotel and extending several miles depending on the configuration, feature—like with Lapland Ice Driving—the real-world layouts of circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps and Barcelona, minus the elevation changes, naturally. Better still, these courses can tie together, allowing truly massive laps and ample time to apply and practice the skills taught in the brief classroom segments.
Extensive seat time is the defining feature of the AMG Winter Sporting program. If there’s another, it’s the Race of Champions-style event put on toward the end of the program: Starting on opposite sides of a peanut-shaped ice track, participants face off over the course of two laps to see who has best mastered the techniques of hustling a powerful car over ice.
Imbuing the Winter Sporting program with its laid-back attitude and general theme of “fun first, speed second” is the team of instructors, a jovial crew seemingly as happy to be loosed for a sideways day on the lake as the rest of us, who make play of learning, practicing, and retaining the peculiar sensitivities and sometimes counterintuitive skills developed during the hours spent sliding an AMG over the well-groomed ice. It’s not cheap, and it’s prone to sell out, but having experienced more than a few such driving schools, we can say wholeheartedly that, AMG owner or not, you don’t want to miss this one.
More info: mercedes-amg.com/driving-academy