Aston Martin On Ice is the closest you'll get to a real life James Bond experience

Half a dozen V12 British sports cars, a trio of helicopters, a high security mountain-top facility and enough snow to host the Winter Olympics.

There's something very James Bond about the latest instalment of Aston Martin On Ice, part of the Art Of Living events the British brand creates to showcase its sporty machinery in a different light.

We're in the mountains around Queenstown and even the weather is playing with the clandestine theme; menacing dark clouds highlight the subtle colours of our cars against white snow.

Hold your horses…

It's not open slather on the vast proving ground facility that is home to the "On Ice" events, hardly surprising given the few million bucks of machinery on hand.

Instead, there are exercises in defined areas cordoned off with dozens of orange safety cones.

Guiding the way is a team of instructors plucked from the UK, Singapore and New Zealand.

It's clear their job is to maximise the grins on faces while keeping people out of the icy snow banks that in cars like these could quickly succumb to tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Slippery slopes

The first exercise is one to whet our appetites, giving a taste of how little traction we're dealing with.

A gentle prod of the throttle has the rear wheels spinning furiously, even with some 700 metal studs biting into the ice.


So, it's gently does it to build up to 30km/h before tempting the car into front- and rear-wheel slides, respectively known as understeer and oversteer.

Cool runnings

The temperature is cold, hovering around zero, it's not as cold as some would like. The mild alpine weather turns the white stuff into a slushy mix, something less than ideal when the goal is for packed snow and ice.

Each night the team monitors temperatures and forecasts to ensure the surface is good for driving. During our day there was some last minute shuffling of locations to ensure we were using an appropriately icy area.

Just 24 hours later the next wave of ice drivers were shut down completely, with unseasonally warm weather making for insufficient ice; instead they were relocated to a nearby race track for a day of higher grip (and speeds).

Steer from the back

The electronic aids designed to contain skids and slides – stability and traction control – are dutifully switched off for ice driving.

After all, the idea is to go sideways.

But the whole sliding thing is governed more by the rear wheels (the driven wheels in all Astons) than the fronts.

A well-timed prod of the throttle can have a bigger impact on which way the car is pointing than tugging at the steering wheel.

Drift theory

With some mild steering any wheelspin sees the rear break away, something controlled by counter-steering – or turning towards the slide – to maintain a (hopefully) beautiful drift.

The challenge comes with slinking from one side to the next, something aided by timely eases off the accelerator and/or a dab of the brakes.

It's all about getting the balance right to coax the car into dancing from one side to the other.

Join the ice club

Aston Martin isn't alone in offering ice driving at Snow Farm.

Mercedes-Benz and BMW, for example, allow punters to sample their sexier machinery sideways on the NZ snow. Ferrari also has some events planned.

But Aston is proud it is one of the only sports car brand attempting such mid-winter madness on the South Island, with the likes of Lamborghini and Porsche focusing more on race tracks – or northern hemisphere snow.

Aston's Asia Pacific marketing chief, Dan Redpath, says it's about giving people a unique experience.

"We hold flagship events around the globe … it's really about how our customers – and potential customers – can enjoy the lifestyle of Aston Martin with unique and really interesting and curious experiences."

Hanging together

"Treat those ice banks like brick walls" is the none too subtle warning from chief instructor Tim Martin.

While it's about fun, it's also about ensuring the vehicles look as sexy as they did at the start once they roll off the ice hours later.

The start is about the basics of sliding, but within an hour we're attacking a slalom that focuses your attention not just on the orange cone directly ahead but the two or three ahead of that, too.

Arguably the most challenging of our exercises was a one-kilometre circle dotted with a curving slalom.

Get it right and you can slide gracefully from one to the next.

Who's in?

While the On Ice event is aimed at Aston Martin customers and enthusiasts, it's not limited to them.

Anyone with a licence can join in the fun.

With the exception of yours truly, most of the 50-odd participants put through the ice event over four days already own – or will soon own – an Aston Martin.

It's an eclectic mix of business owners, professionals and enthusiasts.

Seven of the best

In the end, there's nothing officially 007 about On Ice.

But there's a distinct superspy flavour, perhaps created by driving Bond's weapon of choice in a Bond-like environment.

Indeed, Bond would approve, although Aston Martin may not necessarily approve had we treated the cars like they were in a 007 blockbuster.

When the helicopters arrive to take us back to normality it's a final classy touch for what is a very different four-wheeled experience.

Not that NZ is unique; the brand has previously offered On Ice experiences elsewhere - and this year there will be ice driving events in Astons at Hokkaido in Japan.