As I peer out over the sharply sloped hood of this dark blue Porsche 911 4S Cabriolet, I can see nothing but snow. Turns out I'm not on the road at all. This $121,000, 400-horsepower beast is idling in the middle of Crackerjack, a blue cruising trail at the Mount Ellen at Vermont's Sugarbush resort.
Welcome to the Porsche winter driving experience. The goal of this second-annual event was simply to convince Porsche owners from up and down the east coast that their cars don't need to hibernate all winter but can actually be driven all year long. And to have a snow-flying, four-wheel drifting, six-figure-sports-car blast in the snow
As I pushed the dual-clutch gearbox into drive, and blipped the throttle, the mental disconnect continued. My eyes were showing me nothing but snow and pine trees-and two other 911's I'm following. But my butt told me a different story: The driving felt shockingly un-winter-like. The big Pirelli tires hooked up and the put most of that horsepower into moving the car forward. The car went where I pointed it, the four-wheel drive making the most of the available traction and sending it sure-footedly up the hill. The 911 remained admirably stable as I started to turn back down toward the lodge. Driven sedately, the big convertible was perfectly happy to go where I pointed the wheels
"Less is more." Those were the words of advice bestowed on us by driving instructor Richard Hull during a chalk talk in Sugarbush's Clay Brook lodge, before we took the snowcat up to the middle of Crackerjack and strapped into the 911s. This mantra encouraged measured input on the throttle, a light touch on the steering wheel, and as little braking as possible. This is good advice in most high-performance driving conditions but doubly so in the snow. A gentle touch rendered these powerful rear-engined sports cars surprisingly tame and tractable on the slopes.
All the cars were rock stock, with the traction control and ABS switched off. But they were equipped with serious winter tires, secret weapon for driving on snow. Their aggressive tread pattern bites the snow like a hungry Rottweiler. And the softer rubber is designed for optimal grip in cold temperatures. Indeed, a sports car like these Porsches on the right snows is actually more sure-footed than an SUV. While the four-wheel drive system certainly helped us neophytes, it wasn't the X-factor in this on-snow equation.
As we got used to the cars, the conditions, and the sheer novelty of driving a sports car on a ski slope, the instructor upped the fun quotient. As we picked up the speed, it became clear that the best way to steer these cars was with the throttle. Feed in more power and turn in more aggressively and the back end drifted delightfully. It's all quite predicable, and the car showed no real tendency to want to swap ends the way that early 911s were notorious for. Carve slalom turn or pivot like you're in a mogul field, it's your choice. Either way, these Porsche was up to the challenge, as the world most unlikely–and totally thrilling–ski lift. My only regret? That I left my skis and boots in the lodge. Either way, this Porsche was up to the challenge, as the world's most unlikely – and totally thrilling – ski lift. My only regret? That I left my skis and boots in the lodge.