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High Performance Ice Driving Skills

SDSA ice instructors have been delivering some of the best Ice Driving programmes in the world since 2003.

The four day personalised SDSA certified Ice Instructor Course provides intensive hands on training for professional high performance instructors to extend their experience into the realms of arctic driving. On ice tracks designed by four times world rally champion, Juha Kankkunen, you can discover the limits of studded tyres and your own precision, while developing your coaching skills and the techniques and protocols for instructing on ice.

In a landscape of pristine snow that feels like Narnia brought to life, there is nothing like the experience of mastering the perfect drift through a corner at high speed. Combine this with the camaraderie of working together with a group of like minded professional track instructors, it's a great way to be immersed in one of the most unique and spectacular environments on earth while advancing your driving and coaching skills to the next level.

If you are not a performance driving instructor or wish to focus on pure driving, the three day Ice Driving Programme concentrates entirely on this aspect without the instructor coaching skills that are included in the Instructor Course.

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The Ice Instructor Training is provided in Finland in association with Juha Kankkunen.

Course Content

Instructor Assessment Criteria
Ice and Winter Driving Instructors are expected to satisfy the following requirements:


  • extensive experience of driving on snow and ice and in winter conditions

  • able to explain and demonstrate vehicle dynamics & technology relevant to winter conditions

  • able to demonstrate and coach skills for front, rear and 4 wheel drive vehicles on ice and snow.

  • able to use coaching techniques to help participants to safely explore and develop their driving dynamics skills

  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills, with ability to provide clear and constructive feedback

  • demonstrate good judgement in when and how far to push a driver to remain safe while maximising learning.

  • able to judge the ability and experience of participants and adapt driving exercises to suit them

  • able to recognise, interpret, guide and support individual participant goals and learning objectives

  • able to adapt exercises, content and examples to each participant's interests, knowledge and background

  • able to operate safely as part of a team managing multiple vehicles and activities on different areas

  • knowledge of safe procedures for extracting stuck vehicles – working safely with tractors and tow vehicles etc.

  • in depth knowledge of modern cars and their dynamic capabilities

  • provide practical experience and exercises to develop skills for responding to unexpected situations while driving in winter conditions

  • able to intervene to control the car from the passenger seat if needed

  • able to use dual controls effectively if fitted

  • managing participants to maintain safety and avoid vehicle damage

  • aware of special mechanical stresses created by different exercises where stability systems, steering systems may be compromised, and strategies to manage this

  • knowledge of how the cars systems may be confused by driving on low friction surfaces, and how to manage and reset

  • extensive experience of high performance driving

  • familiar with specialist winter and studded tyres, how each performs, and their applications

  • understand safety procedures for operating on frozen lakes and in winter conditions

  • familiar with risks and emergency procedures for operation on frozen lakes

  • aware of the effects of vehicle speeds and spacing while driving on ice

  • understand ice thickness parameters, and aware of spacing and load factors for different ice thicknesses and vehicles

  • recognise symptoms of hyperthermia and hypothermia and appropriate first aid response


Winter Driving Instruction: key points for instructors.
Why driving on snow and ice makes drivers better:
Key learning points that can be achieved:

  • Understand low grip and how to adjust driving speed/style

  • Proactive driving – using your eyes; look for the clean line, shortest way and best grip

  • Feel your car – understand steering and weight transfer

  • Throttle control

  • Braking Force and Control

  • Think ahead - driving lines, corner entrance/exit speed

  • Drive consistently – don’t be a passenger, the car behaves logically when you tell it what you want

  • Exploring ESP/ABS functions in safe conditions, trust the car not your old habits

  • Understanding tyres: grip, usage and tyre tread/spikes

Four main approaches for driving on snow 4WD/RWD/FWD

(Translated from Finnish.... there are some words that do not exist in English)


1. Driving to the level of grip:

  • Means driving without understeer or oversteer. You maintain the same speed on all four wheels and you maintain grip by adjusting speed.

  • Brake early enough before a corner to get speed down enough to be able to steer with no slip. If the car understeers you are too fast, if you brake and turn at the same time, you are braking too late.

  • Turn straight after braking so that weight transfers to the front axle. Use ABS braking if possible to have max. weight transfer to front axle

  • If you brake too early and lift off the brakes before turning, weight transfers away from the front wheels which causes understeer.

  • Steering control, when cornering you need to steer as little as possible; feel the grip throughout the corner by small adjustments. Tyre tread/spike has always best grip when running as straight as possible so less steering actually turns car more than heavy steering. Feel the grip

  • Throttle control also steers the car. Always lift off throttle at turning point but go on throttle asap in the corner to get acceleration. Control throttle precisely so that you don't spin wheels but you have acceleration. Throttle is not an on/off switch. On poor grip, the most important tool for controlled driving.

  • Use as much road as possible. Round and wide lines, cut apex points in, late in if possible. On variable surface find the grip points around track rather than using optimal line

  • Closest way of driving to tarmac/circuit driving but with lower speed for the lower grip

2. Driving off grip 4WD

  • Driving off grip means that we are power sliding the car from corner to corner, You control the car by using weight, brake, throttle and steering but at the same time you keep car off grip

  • You brake short and hard to get weight on front axle and get the grip for front tires

  • Steer hard and early before the corner to get car in right direction, use harder throttle to keep car off grip

  • Make quick contra steer to avoid oversteer and find the direction for the car on next straight

  • Steer in the direction you are heading, keep on gas but not flat out, feel the grip. Maintain throttle during corner!

  • Lift off the throttle to increase grip, to move car out increase throttle to decrease grip

  • Balanced throttle control to find optimal line out

  • Steer from corner to corner using weight transfer together with steering; steer more with weight transfer and throttle than steering wheel

  • When changing direction lift off the throttle and steer to next direction

  • Throttle break depends on shape of next corner. If corner is tight, wait until car has right direction, if corner is short and fast, just lift off quickly and go back on throttle again

  • Go back on throttle, make quick contra steering to avoid oversteer and steer into the corner again - maintain throttle

  • Much more challenging way of driving, perfect throttle control and important to stay OFF grip. If you go on grip, you need to start again.

  • Use shorter line than on grip, early in, apex to apex, stay more centred to avoid rear tyre hitting snow bank when sliding

  • FWD car, use driving style 1, when on grip you go faster and smoother

  • RWD car, use opposite to driving style 2, when sliding, lift off throttle to increase grip, contra steer heavily to avoid spinning, find limit of grip and try to keep the car close to that when cornering

3. Mixture of 1&2

  • When driving road or a longer handling track with straights, you need to mix these two techniques. When you have a sequence of bends go off grip, but before a longer straight, balance and straighten out from last corner.

  • End of long straight you need early braking to get front wheel grip into the corner, and then you can power it out.

  • Challenging driving rhythm, aggressive cornering but slowly in after braking points. Short lines when sliding, racing line when on grip

4. Driving with ABS/ESP

  • Brake hard to feel ABS working, never release brakes when entering a corner too fast, brake and turn at the same time

  • When driving with electronic stability programmes, trust the computer system, not your feeling

  • ESP works correctly when you steer in the direction you want to go

  • Do not contra steer against car body movement, G force sensors can´t understand this

  • Less steering wheel movement is smoother and faster, aim for the next straight with small movements, "lean on ESP"

  • Less throttle movement gives more logical data for ESP, better stable half throttle than changing

  • Co-operate with the computer system and you will find yourself driving smooth and fast

  • Electronic brake assist, push brake pedal hard and fast enough,

  • 4 wheels braking with maximum force, still able to steer, brake lights flashing to warn others

       Instructor needs to:

  • Be able to give customer a clear demonstration drive using all methods

  • Quickly recognise customer’s ability and confidence levels and adjust exercises and targets

  • Recognise "grip of the day" quickly. Even on ice grip changes massively throughout the day.

  • Be part of the driving when coaching. Best learning curve is when you tell every point in real time

  • When you see him improving, stop coaching for few corners, You will notice that he starts to push more and loses control = worse lap times/slower speed

  • Don´t drive as long as the customer wants, take rest breaks to manage fatigue

  • Repeat exercises during the day.

  • Recognise that if customer drives till tired they lose the ability to concentrate way earlier.

  • Don´t be afraid to stop an exercise and give a demo drive, customer can learn a lot watching your demo

"Drive the car, don’t be a passenger!"
 Key Exercises and Configurations 


  1. Circle

  2. Oval

  3. Figure 8

  4. Slalom

  5. Dynamic Area

  6. Dynamic Track

  7. Handling Track

Figure of 8 
Three connected corners that repeat consistently to allow multiple repetitions

  • The most challenging single exercise

  • Perfection of most essential techniques

  • Allows quick and precise repetitions

  • Focus on weight transfer

  • Use to develop skills for:

    • Use of braking to control weight transfer

    • Quick, precise weight transfer

    • Forward planning and thinking ahead

    • Correct Positioning

    • Accurate judgement of speed for the conditions

    • Developing feel for the car and balance

A continuous mid-corner to allow detailed experimentation of in-corner vehicle dynamics.

  • Use to develop skills for:

    • Looking in the right place

    • Throttle control

    • Exploring steering angle

    • Practise minimum steering inputs

    • Steering with the throttle

    • Controlling the back of the car – adjusting the angle

    • Understand oversteer and understeer

  • Be aware of potential issues for engine cooling and steering pump overheating/failure.

A single complete corner – allows continued repetitions of an exercise at low speed

  • Use to develop skills for:

    • Basic handling principles

    • Straight line grip

    • Corner entry speed

    • Braking straight and then turning

    • Weight transfer

    • Using the weight of the car

    • Oversteer and Understeer management

    • Scandinavian flick

  • Gives feeling of achievement quickly

  • Confidence building

  • Good starter for the second day of driving

A regular sequence of identical bends through markers spaced 12-15m apart with extensive run-off

  • Use to develop skills for:

    • Looking through the bends

    • Speed control

    • Weight transfer

    • Steering

    • Balance

    • Rhythm and timing

    • Precise throttle control

Useful for developing confidence and gaining understanding of basic errors
Dynamic Tracks
A short sequence of bends allowing quick repetition of a dynamic series.

  • Use to develop skills for:

    • More complex handling and interaction of different bends

    • Getting to know a sequence of corners

    • Feel for speed judgement and control

Handling Tracks
An extended circuit of bends allowing application of the skills developed on individual exercises

  • Use to develop skills for:

    • Complex handling and interaction of multiple bends

    • Remembering a sequence of corners

    • Continue to develop feel for speed judgement and control

    • Adapting to visibility levels and different weather conditions

    • Practise driving in changing conditions

    • Develop fluid, smooth, balanced driving style for maximum control and handling

For more information, contact:

Phil Gardner SDSA
+44 (0)844 371 9063


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