To show that an Aston Martin has versatility to match its braun and beauty, the British manufacturer has launched a series of winter driving schools. The US program was held last week at Laci Ranch, just outside of Crested Butte, Colorado, on a vast and gently rolling plot of land that typically receives over 10 feet of snow each winter. Everything on hand, including the luxurious track-side yurt, was purpose-built for Aston's latest US course. Our first day entailed training exercises to focus on turning, braking and sliding (with the added obstacle of a white-out snow storm), whereas the second was spent rotating between models and driving laps and laps and laps, each time pushing the cars a little further and learning how to slip, slide and drift with an elegance befitting an Aston. Professional race drivers and instructors led by Paul Gerrard braved the elements—single-digit temps the first day, a balmy 20 degrees the second—to provide detailed guidance as well as real-time coaching.
Driving on ice is a thrill, but doing so in a DB9, Rapide S, V12 Vantage S or Vanquish is something of a curiosity. Rear-wheel-drive cars are generally considered the worst winter performers due to their uneven weight distribution. Astons, however, are different; the front-mid engine position and rear transmission combine to offer an even, centralized core. The exercises also put the cars' stability control systems to good use, but the real fun began when switching to the lesser-controlled Track Mode and by turning the systems fully off. The low-friction conditions provided ample opportunity to manipulate the gas, brakes and steering to control over-steer and under-steer situations to create controlled drifts.
On the flight home I was reliving the twists, turns and slides while running laps in my head, trying to lock in the new driving lessons. The reflections began to morph into fantasies as I began to doze off—I was taking my bright blue Vanquish down a fresh powder run carving epic turns like I aspire to do on a snowboard. Upon awakening I realized there are some similarities between driving on ice and riding a snowboard. Ultimately, it's all about weight distribution. On a board you simply apply pressure to the right edge at the right time by shifting your body. In a car it's a much more complex choreography of gas, brakes and steering to deliver the same effect. Stab a little gas while in a left turn and you can kick out the tail. Apply a touch of brake while your nose is over steering to come back to center.
Lead images by Drew Phillips and courtesy of Aston Martin, slideshow images by Josh Rubin