Originally published in the Spring 2014 quattro quarterly
For anyone and everyone!
I’d like to start by saying thank you! I know there is so much that goes into the planning, logistics, organizing and execution of an event like this. Also, I wouldn’t change a thing. Every part of the Audi Driving Experience was fantastic, from the minute we arrived in Munich to the bus dropping us off at the airport early Thursday morning.
The Audi Driving Experience is for anyone and everyone. If you enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded individuals that share a common interest, this event is for you. Although there were varying levels of experience in ice driving, everyone seemed to have grasped new found skills under the watchful and helpful eye of world class instructors. Uwe Fricker, Marco Werner and Oliver Rudolph were nothing short of amazing. Ear to ear grins by all participants over the two days of driving. Combine this with outstanding scenery, five-star accommodations and food and you have the perfect Audi experience.
Chad Clark (First place!)
Jump in, load ‘em up!
It was a lark, really. I mean, I had only been an Audi Club member for a little more than a year, and a first time Audi owner (12+ years of BMWs) for two. So, when the email (in the ‘junk’ folder no less!) arrived in November about a few spots left for the Audi Ice Driving experience in Seefeld, Austria—well, I sent it on to my wife. Surprisingly, she said “LET’S GO!” I quickly responded ‘yes’ to the Club, and managed to find off-season, cheap mileage air tickets.
Growing up and learning to drive in the Pacific Northwest meant that I had seen some snow and ice (how do you get to Crystal Mountain?), but after spending 15 years in North Carolina, those days were long gone. My wife, being from North Carolina, only has driven on the sand of the coast. And other then driving faster than we should on the freeways, we have zero Club or track experience of any kind.
Getting to Munich, where the group met up, was easy. And, after an introductory dinner, we all went to our rooms early, trying to recover from the long flights. In the morning, the group boarded a bus for a private tour of some of Audi AG’s most priceless possessions—the original cars from the company’s history—from the early days, to the original quattro, to the recent TDI Le Man’s winners. This private tour was not in the museum—but in their working garage—and while having been to Ingolstadt once before (Euro-delivery), I can say that this tour is much nicer!
Following a group lunch in the first class restaurant, we headed the two hours down to Seefeld. No check in at the hotel—room keys were simply passed out, and we all washed up and then made our way downstairs for drinks and dinner—and were introduced to our instructors.
Morning two—D Day. Missed dinner the night before…was battling a 24 hour bug…but there was no way I was going to miss this morning. At the hotel there were some PowerPoints on under and over-steer, and then we were off to the hotel’s underground garage—where ten of the loveliest, bright red, S4 Avants awaited us. Jump in…load ‘em up…just grab some keys, and follow the leader to the course which was under 5 km away.
Two days of driving followed. Under-steer, over-steer, power-sliding, slalom…it was all there…taught by world champion drivers—drivers who had won (multiple times, in the case of Marco Werner) at Le Mans, or at Nuerburgring. At the end of day two was the timed slalom—two try’s at the course. How did I do? I, race car extraordinaire, car buff for 20 years, watcher of ‘Rush’ on the Lufthansa flight over—was soundly beaten (and I say ‘soundly’) by my wife—driver of the family SUV. The bad news is that I will never live it down (a win is a win)….the good news? Losing is a great excuse for me to try to find the funds to go to the AUDI ice driving school in Finland in 2015!
It was a great trip. In fact, because of the magazine’s deadline, I am typing this while on a train from Prague, heading back to Munich and home. The other 30 attendees with us—a mix of people (mainly couples) from their late 30’s and early 40’s (us), to 50’s and 60’s. We have made friends with people whom I dare say we will meet up again. My only request—Audi NA—LISTEN TO US, and BRING THESE MODELS INTO THE U.S!
Many thanks to ACNA for making this happen!
New skills and confidence
The experience was awesome from beginning to end—great cars, beautiful scenery, fantastic instructors, and lots of camaraderie with fellow Audi enthusiasts. It was a terrific learning experience, with some new skills that have increased my confidence and come in handy since my return home—lots of snow in NJ at the moment! The cars were impressive…the activities were pretty tough on the vehicles and they responded without fail despite the pounding we put them through!
Old dog, new tricks
My son, Rory and I had a great time with all of the “motor heads” on the trip. We learned a lot, and the instructors were fantastic. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? As a parent, I would highly recommend this experience to be shared with a son or daughter. The accommodation was first class, and a new dump of snow made it magical.
Ice driving by the numbers
3500 – The area in square meters of the spa, indoor-outdoor pool, saunas and wellness area of the luxurious Doirnt Hotel in Seefeld, Austria—a worthy spa destination in its own right. There is nothing quite like viewing the mountains at sunset with snow falling on your head while immersed in a heated pool.
90 – The average number of studs per tire on every Audi S4 Avant our group drove. The studded tires allowed the right amount of traction on the ice field while we trained to produce just enough slip during understeer, oversteer, power slides, and slalom training with our quattro engineered cars.
16 – The number of perfect Andorra Red Pearl Audi S4 Avant 3.0 TDI vehicles our group used during our Ice Driving training.
86 – The decibel level of screams during hot laps, taken at very high speed, in the dark, around a slalom course with instructor and 3-time LeMans champion Marco Werner.
10 – The number of different Audi winter driving experiences available including Muonio, Finland about 150 miles north of the Arctic Circle!
8 – Number of horses pulling four sleighs in a most charming ride through the Tirolean Alps at night. If Julie Andrews’ character Maria in Sound of Music overlooked one of her favorite Austrian things…this would be it!
4 – Number of seconds to hold the button to turn OFF the ESP and traction control.
.16 – The number of seconds our instructor Uwe needed to react in the ABS braking and direction change demonstration.
37- The number of smiling faces on our last night as the group celebrated with Audi team, instructors and each other about a supremely memorable experience.
Ah hah moments!
I am a long time member (1986) and joined the Quattro Club as it was then to try and figure out how to get the most out of quattro. I had owned FWD Audis since the 1970s and found my 4000 at that time to be a quite different vehicle to any other, especially when traction was poor. However, I believed I could learn these skills using the time honored ‘trial and error” on road, track and rally (Tim O’Neill’s school) opportunities.
The relative time and expense of Seefeld seemed like fun but not a priority. Oh so wrong! The skills we gain driving our interstates, DE events, suburbs and the occasional loops in the snow at of the local Walmart parking lot are not enough to understand how to manage this wonderful quattro system. The combination of the perfect terrain, skilled and articulate instructors and seamless organization makes for a growth experience for any driver, but especially a quattro owner.
Gillian, my daughter, had no skid pad or track exposure before Seefeld, and while I have had both, nothing prepared us for the eye-opening insights and “ah HAH” moments that we enjoyed. The only down side was insufficient piste time for us slow learners to get a better opportunity for gaining hand eye coordination especially on the slalom and circle. However, thanks to your organization and that of the entire Audi team, that deprivation was well compensated by the hospitality, great food, good company and an evening ride with Oliver and Marco that is almost an X-Games experience—and rivals any video game as yet invented. I think a visit to Finland is now in the plan.
Audi has a unique brand and value proposition that has been in development since the ur quattro stormed the motorsports scene in 1982. This experience is one of the best ways to display its attributes and I very much regret not grabbing the chance to do it sooner. At least Gillian has now done so and I suspect she will never stray from quattro as a result.
Thanks to all for making this a unique ACNA event.
Not to be missed!
The Audi Driving Experience in Seefeld, Austria is an event NOT to be missed for the Audi enthusiast. After attending the national event in Nashville in October, I felt it was only fitting to follow it up with a trip to the gorgeous Austrian Alps and learn to drive on the ice, especially since I’m from Florida and we have tons of ice to navigate. ACNA did not disappoint. From the digs at the Dorint Alpin Resort in Seefeld in Tirol, Austria, to the Audi S4 Avants being used as more-than-capable vehicles, it was an incredible adventure.
I found the driving experience was full of surprises and fun, as well as, educational. We had the opportunity to interact with the instructors over two days which made it a very relaxed, yet professional and exciting atmosphere. On day two I put all the training together and now feel more comfortable in my abilities on the ice, should I ever need them. I am so glad I was able to attend, and hopefully this is the start of many more Audi Driving Experiences in the future!
Many thanks to the staff at the Audi Driving Experience, and to everyone from ACNA who made this a memorable event!
The real deal
The Audi Ice Driving Experience is not about marketing, it’s the real deal…an exhilarating and thoroughly enjoyable time in the Alps. Great cars, people and scenery! Not to be missed…even by those who don’t own an Audi (but should)! I’ve already put the skills to use upon my return—with the polar vortex and two inches of snow in Hot Atlanta—cradle of the South. Go quattro!
Accolades to Audi
I am still raving about my trip to Germany and showing off the ice driving pictures. WOW, the Audi Driving Experience, definitely one trip I’ll remember. I give accolades to the entire Audi staff. It was thrilling watching the instructors perform their array of driving skills. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be under their guidance. I had a blast. Seefeld, next year?
First, I need to give a little background information to put the trip into its proper context. I have always been the ‘practical’ car guy. Minnesota winters do gruesome things to vehicles, they usually live a short life, and looking at the undercarriage of a five-year-old car appears as if it has been sprayed with sulfuric acid. That is what the copious amount of road salt will do. I have traded amenities for functionality in my snow season transportation, which usually turned into my year round ride.
My brother, on the other hand, always had a sports car for the summer and a second car for the six months of ice and snow. He has owned, over the years, several rear wheel drive American coupes and three S or RS Audis. The Audi of note in my case was a very spiffy 2005 S4 that had never been driven in the crud. I mentioned to him that if he ever decided to part with it, let me know, I was interested. The day came when it was for sale, it did not take long to find its way into my garage. Now a proud owner of the silver B6 S4 Sedan, an ACNA membership was certainly required. Since my brother started me on this path, of course, I put him down on the form for the referral.
It was last October when I get a call while on the T-box on the third hole at my company’s annual golf tournament. He had won the grand prize or something, I would have to call him back (in golf etiquette even having the phone’s ringer turned on is considered rude). Well, that evening he informed me that he was one of the grand prize winners of the Audi Ice driving experience in Seefeld, Austria for the following January. He did not want to go alone and his spouse had encouraged him to ask me, since I referred him! To sweeten the deal, he offered to split the cost of the class, how could I say no?
Fast forward to arrival at the Munich flughafen (airport) where we hopped the S8 train to the event reserved hotel. It was a beautiful day, 50F, which was way better than the -20F at home earlier in the week. We checked in, began jet lag recovery, and would start exploring Munich the next morning. The next scheduled activity was dinner Sunday night, where we introduced ourselves to the rest of the participants and were treated to a fantastic buffet. I’m going to cover this just once—every meal included in this trip was top notch. But, this is a story about 16 red Audi S4 Avants with studded snow tires and I’m no food critic. Monday morning, we packed up our gear and loaded the bus for Ingolstadt.
Normally, this day would be spent at the Audi museum and a factory tour. We had been informed that due to factory retooling, there could be no tour. Further, since no cars were being produced, no one could take factory delivery and Audi scheduled maintenance on the museum as well.
Our day was not a loss. Going into the non-public Audi Tradition garage we saw some very special Audis. For me, the best cars were first the Audi Sport quattro, which Frank Beddor, club founder, had brought to the US, and started the organization that eventually evolved into ACNA. The second was the 2006 winning Le Mans car which still featured the name of one of our future instructors painted on the cowl.
Off to Seefeld and a world class ski resort hotel. The next morning we met our instructors and piled into brand new red S4s (800km on the odometer) and drove to the flooded, frozen pasture to begin lessons. While I drive a 4×4 on ice six months out of the year, Minnesota has long since outlawed studded tires, this is a new experience for me. I asked and discovered that only Austria and Switzerland allow them in Europe, hence the large studded tire decal on the back window makes it easy for law enforcement to write a ticket, should you stray over a border.
I found the exercises most challenging. We were being asked to drive the cars very differently than my instinctive reflexes garnered from 38 years of winter commuting. When one loses traction and the rear end kicks out, let off the gas and turn into the skid. You gracefully recover and bring the car under control. Being told to do the opposite in a vehicle you just signed a damage waiver for $13,900 with trees, 15 or so other new Audis, a creek, and people standing nearby was tough.
We continued to work on basic skills exercises the following day, finally putting our abilities to the test on a timed slalom course. I enjoyed this exercise immensely, push the car to a limit you are comfortable with and appreciate the performance that the quattro drive, super charged, mountain goat at your fingertips possessed. We could choose to leave the ESC on or off, my brother and I left it on for our timed lap. The adage of use ESC till it holds you back still rings true (my brother got third overall).
We thought that was a great culmination of a fun event, little did we know what was to come…
The group boarded horse drawn sleighs which pulled us through the charming town of Seefeld and into the dark woods. We got a little adrenaline rush when the sleighs started to slip sideways towards the cliff, nobody worried so much about the chill in the air after that. The sleighs dropped us off back at the frozen pasture where our hosts had an open fire which was heating an Austrian spiced wine specialty for all to sample (I noted that the instructors did not imbibe). The final surprise of the evening was when we were taken two at a time out in the night on the ice field for the ride of a life time. I think the Oliver Rudolph’s final maneuver was awesome. He spun the car; the only thing that could be seen out the windows was the kicked up snow and ice from the spinning tires. He almost magically recovered, with the Avant pointed in the right direction, and took us back up to the cabin for the next group.
We caught a very early bus the next morning back to the Munich flughafen, today I’m still thinking about the trip and noting that the Glacier Lake chapter is having its own ice driving clinic. Unfortunately, they don’t allow SUV winter beaters in the class and I’m not sure I can bring myself to take the S4 out of storage and cover it with salt.
A Magical Audi Experience
The experience in Seefeld for Amy and I touched our soul. That is the best way to describe what occurred in the Austrian Alps, in the magical world of the Audi Winter Driving Experience. The description of the event bore small resemblance to the actual experience created by Audi to improve quattro ice driving skills, and how could it? Words cannot convey the magic of what takes place in Seefeld.
On the face of things, the Audi Winter Driving Experience is well organized and staffed by some of the most talented drivers in the world. From the warm welcome to the excellent driver training not a step is missed. The discussions at dinners about driving and racing Audis, enhanced the camaraderie of ACNA members sharing the experience. For our Audi Club North America participants it was a long journey to attend and expectations were naturally high for a wonderful event.
What we did not realize is that the Audi Winter Driving Experience is wrapped in a fairytale world of mountains, snow, castles and history, in a land far, far away. Driving down a winding snow covered trail through tall snow-covered pines to a magical ice field in the forest cannot be explained; it must be experienced. The mystical sound of bells on the horses and a sleigh ride under a full moon to a final outdoor celebration of our time in Seefeld must be experienced.
Learning to drive quattro on ice is a special reward. Learning about how little I really know about why an Audi does what it does on ice, is even more rewarding. That members have returned again and again to Seefeld to join the Audi Winter Driving experience seemed to us a bit redundant at first, but not any longer. We will return to Seefeld in the future; not only to enhance our quattro driving skills, but to once again enter the magical world of Audi. We are also planning our next Audi Experience in Finland for another level of ice training.
Our thanks and best wishes to Audi AG instructors for their excellent instruction, unlimited patience and friendship. We look forward to seeing them again at our next Audi Driving Experience.
Gerry & Amy Dale