A Mercedes, on Ice


Most folks planning a visit to Sweden haven’t even heard of Arjeplog, a snowy outpost just south of the Arctic Circle. But for driving enthusiasts who revel in high-speed drifts and sideways antics, these frozen hinterlands offer acres and acres of heaven on ice.

Widely considered by automotive manufacturers to be the world capital of cold weather testing, Arjeplog has recently expanded its scope as a Mecca for drivers willing to trade big city lights for the thrill of pushing high-horsepower cars beyond their limits. Mercedes-Benz’s AMG division is one of the biggest players in this niche field, and its two-day courses combine all the pleasures you’d associate with pitching 500-plus horsepower cars sideways with the elegant accommodations you’d expect from the world’s oldest carmaker.

Led by race drivers like DTM legend Bernd Schneider, the school is set up on a seemingly endless range of frozen lakebeds delineated into several “tracks.” A full cadre of Mercedes-Benz AMGs are used, including the SLK55 roadster, C63 coupe, and E63 sedan, and each are outfitted with studded tires which help bite into snow. But the real fun starts when AMG’s gutsy engines overpower rear wheel traction; sliding around the course beyond the limits of adhesion requires a delicate balance between slip angle and spinout, encouraging a finer level of throttle control and steering input, techniques which help you become a better driver under any meteorological condition. There’s also copious electronic data recording and in-car cameras enabling instructors to analyze what contributed to your shining moments, as well as which errors fueled your inevitable unplanned run-ins (yes, plural) with snow banks.

Learning to negotiate the extremes of cold weather driving can be frustrating, empowering, and dizzyingly fun all at once, and there’s plenty of camaraderie to be had over quaint wintry dinners which feature locale cuisine such as grilled reindeer and smoked salmon. But the biggest takeaway is the ability to negotiate virtually any road in any climate with an elevated sense of dexterity that can only be developed on ice. [Priced by skill level: Basic: $1,580; Pro: $5,170; Advanced: $6,630; mercedes-amg.com]

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