Gliding On The ice At Bentley’s Fantasy Camp

Posted on Mar 21 2016 - 5:42am by Lisa Chan

It was just before 2:00 PM when I landed in Helsinki, bleary-eyed and more than slightly disoriented, after a late-night departure from New York and an early-morning connection in Amsterdam.



I was staring at the departures board. There was one more flight to go before I could join Bentley for Power on Ice, its annual ice driving experience in the northerly town of Kuusamo, but there was a problem: There were two HEL-KAO flights on the board, both slated to leave at 4:30, and it was impossible to discern which was Bentley’s chartered flight to the alpine ski area. Nonplussed and unable to utter a word in Finnish, I approached a gate agent with rudimentary English to see if she knew which flight was mine.

It was an auspicious start to three days of attending Bentley’s exclusive fantasy camp for its affluent super-fans, which purportedly exists to answer the question: What can you give the Bentley fan who already has everything? For drivers more accustomed to making graceful entries and exits in their posh vehicles, several days of power sliding on a private track more than suffices.For the better part of a decade, Bentley has decamped to Kuusamo, the town located just south of the Arctic Circle, to prove the British performance bona-fides of its lineup on 19 square miles of frozen Kuusamojärvi lake, as part of the wintertime Power on Ice event. The program satisfies the need of high-end performance enthusiasts who want something different than arriving at another five-star hotel for another weekend of good eating, drinking, and relaxing. Plenty of brands assert that they have a bespoke answer for discerning customers, but Power on Ice is truly different. You need not be a Bentley owner to participate in the program, but an aficionado of the brand with some cash burning a pretty big hole in the pocket.

For an entry fee of approximately $13,000 per driver – round-trip flight to Finland not included – you can buy into an all-inclusive experience that includes two days of ice driving, ice karting, culinary adventures involving local game and fowl, and a nighttime dog sled ride through a snowy forest. (More on that later.) Non-driving companions can take part in all other aspects for a nominally lower price. A staff of about 50 Bentley drivers and event planners remain on hand to ensure that all participants’ needs are consistently met.

Throughout the year, Bentley offers opportunities to engage with those enamored of the brand in the public eye, at race events and at auto shows, but its private occasions are sought-after affairs with guest lists often restricted to customers. Power on Ice is somewhere in between, where anyone can pay to hold a spot to drift a Bentley with abandon on the lake. The might of almost all the Bentley lineup is on display, with only the rear-wheel-drive Mulsanne and Continental GT convertibles sitting out this year. It’s a chance to flog six-figuresupercars in an unusual environment that has an ultrahigh threshold for damage and danger, since there are no obstacles on the plowed-out course on the ice – and it was also an opportunity to introduce potential owners to the Bentayga SUV.

The day concluded with the chance to take go karts with studded tires out on the ice for some friendly competition, before we headed back to the hotel for a final group dinner. Toward the end of the coursed meal, our drivers presented us with certificates of completion for a job well done – and not a wreck had. The participant who required the most pulls out of the snow was rewarded with tractor-shaped cufflinks. Toasts were initiated, to thank the pro drivers, who doubled as fearless professors for my cohort’s group, as well as the others that took part in January and February. A feeling stronger than camaraderie had formed in the short time that our group had been together. It finally sunk in that there would be no third day of exhilarating fun on the ice, and that all that was left was a long day of travel.

By this point, I was a converted believer in the transformative power of two winter days, both to produce more confident drivers and to meet like-minded enthusiasts. There are surely Bentley owners who want to take part in Power on Ice to prove their driving prowess to a spouse or family member, or to try a new experience that’s virtually impossible to replicate on their own – and every participant in the group indicated near-total fulfillment from the experience.

The next morning, the group traveled together back to Helsinki on the charter flight, and bid each other goodbye at the airport. They were returning to Bentleys. It was all too easy for me to find my gate.