Porsche's winter fantasy camp, Part 2

More on Porsche's Camp4 in Vail, Colo., and secrets to snowy winter driving.

Laura's car, lucky number 7 Laura Burstein

The Porsche Camp4 racetrack is perched more than 9,000 feet above sea level. So if the sight of the new Porsche 911 Carrera S to which I was assigned didn't take my breath away, the elevation certainly did. But armed with water, aspirin, and special acupressure wristbands to prevent motion sickness, I was ready to start my engine.

The one-day program was divided into four specific exercises: The skid pad, an obstacle-avoidance course, a slalom course, and the full track. The skid pad was a large circle cut into the snow. The goal wasn't to just drive around it, but rather, to drift around it sideways.

Laura and instructor Claude Jonathan Elfalan, courtesy of Road & Track

My instructor, Claude, did a couple of example laps before it was my turn. He made it look so easy. The trick is to turn the wheel and accelerate quickly to make the back of the car come out, then to counter-steer to make the car correct. To keep the car moving around the circle, it's a delicate dance of acceleration, lift, and slight but precise steering input. At first it felt unusual to try to drift the car, because many of the techniques go against what we learn in driver's ed. But after a while, the concept clicked, and I really got a feel for how the car responded in the snow.

An instructor gets sideways in the snow Reagan Morgan

The obstacle-avoidance course consisted of a straight, followed by a sharp swerve to the left (as if going around a car or other object at the last second). This one was slightly easier to master, although none of us went very fast. By the end of our runs, most of us were drifting out of the way, rather than steering around.

The slalom course put together the techniques we'd learned in the previous two exercises. It was fun to drift the car from side-to-side around the cones.

Laura on the track Jonathan Elfalan, courtesy of Road & Track

The grand finale was driving the full track. It was an exhilarating combination of uphill straights, sharp turns, and lots of elevation changes. Admittedly, some of us lost control a time or two and plowed into the high snow banks (I crashed twice, including once going into the pit lane. I claim the latter was my homage to Lewis Hamilton, a la his pit stop in Shanghai last season). Fortunately, snow is forgiving, unlike concrete.

If I were able, I'd have taken the five-day course. During the one-day program, I felt like I never fully grasped the concepts of what we were trying to learn until the exercise was over. More driving time would have definitely helped. But at the end of the day, all of us felt like we'd learned something new - and we had a lot of fun in the process.

Click here for some basic winter driving tips, straight from the Porsche Camp4 Colorado curriculum.

About the author

    Laura Burstein is a freelance automotive and technology journalist. She covers car news and events for a variety of companies including CNET, General Motors, and Mercedes-Benz. Laura is a member of the Motor Press Guild and the BMW Car Club of America, and spends much of her spare time at high-performance driving schools, car control clinics, and motorsports events. She's also an avid Formula 1 fan. When she's not at the track, Laura's rubbing elbows with car cognoscenti at auto shows, auctions, design events, and various social gatherings. Disclosure.

     

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