If you want to upset somebody this Christmas buy them lessons from the Institute of Advanced Motorists. However good your intentions – they save money on your insurance! – it won’t go down well. Trust me.
Winter driving courses though are a completely different kettle of fish, a fun way to acquire useful skills and expand your repertoire.
One thing they don’t do – so far anyway – is reduce your premium. In other bad news, there aren’t that many winter driving courses in the UK. No reliable snow means complex equipment like kick plates or Scandinavian cradles to simulate slippery surfaces, plus the whole sector was badly credit crunched.
The good news is that courses start at £79, they are held all around the country, and there’s something for everyone: no-frills tuition, a family day out or stag-do style entertainment.
To practice on actual ice and snow you have to go abroad, though the options here include a high speed one-on-one with a rally legend in the Arctic Circle.
D&S Events, Donington Park, J23a M42
Professional driver trainers who also teach regular motorists, at the historic racing circuit in the East Midlands. From £79. Also group/corporate deals. Phone 01332 810007 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Rockingham Motor Speedway, Corby, Northants
Now open to even 17 year olds with a full driving licence, £99 gets you 30 minutes in-car tuition and 10 minutes briefing. Phone 01536 271 273. Between the M1 and A1(M) near Leicester.
LOW FRICTION SURFACE
Prodrive, Warwickshire, J5 M42
Using Prodrive’s own proving ground, includes a 15 minute briefing, 15 minute demo, 30 minutes at the wheel in a 90 minute driving session (the rest as a passenger) and a 20 minute debrief. Groups 2/3. £125 per person own vehicle, £150 per person in Prodrive vehicle. 01676 536100 or email email@example.com
Winter driving courses are one activity of many at Mercedes-Benz World in Surrey. Choice of front, rear or four wheel drive cars, manual or automatic. Courses ‘tailored to each individual driver’ so price depends. Last year winter courses were £99.
As you would expect, the Porsche facility at Silverstone, alongside the Hangar Straight, is a state of the art track with all the toys, including kick plates and an ice hill. Porsche offer two courses, both cost £165 and you can use your own car (or a Porsche). See YouDrive@Porsche for groups, or YouDrive@Porsche One-to-One. Held only on certain dates/ times.
Land Rover Experience
Land Rover no longer offers regular winter driving courses but will provide tuition on an individual basis at its eight locations in the UK. The company also runs an annual Nordic Adventure but the closing date is now past.
BMW, The Alps
It’s arguably too late by the time you reach the skiing resort, but winter driving lessons are part of the comprehensive BMW winter sports programme at several resorts in the Alps.
Juha Kankkunen Driving Academy, Finland
The four time world rally champion now runs a driving school in Kuusamo in central east Finland, about 20 miles from the Russian border. It offers a full range of winter driving courses up to co-driving the master himself down a five mile forest rally stage. Not cheap, prices start at €1,400 per day, not including flights and accommodation (available locally).
Vying with Kankkunen is the driving arm of Francis Tuthill, the Oxfordshire Porsche specialists (911s are definitely the ice driving car of choice). Based beside a lake in Åre, west central Sweden near the Norwegian border. It can be another five star experience, sharing accommodation and nightlife with the nearby popular ski resort. They can even put you in touch with a private jet company. Prices start at £1,750 per person per day with trips up to three days long. Fully tailor made packages with four separate circuits or rally stages to practice on.
National Motoring Clubs
National Motoring Clubs in mountainous or snowy countries routinely offer winter driving courses, like Switzerland’s TCS, at locations all around the country. Generally only for native speakers. Click above for a list of European motoring clubs and contact details.
Don Palmer, Norway
Persuasive types could coax international driver coach Don Palmer out of semi-retirement. This won’t be cheap either, his prices started at £1,100 per person per day (up to £3,625pp) in Norway. Contact him on Twitter @dalaipalmer or by email firstname.lastname@example.org