Chance will have it that the Audi ice experience in Finland is located in a small town north of the Arctic Circle. Klaus Demel can still remember the early days as if it were yesterday. “The town of Muonio has a historic significance for Audi,” the man in charge of the Audi driving experience knows all too well.
“In 1977, the Group did its winter testing there. The all-wheel drive developed by Audi was put through its paces in the VW Iltis off-roader. This then became the Audi quattro.” And the rest is history: The first Audi sports coupé with all-wheel drive laid the foundations for a success story of more than six million models with quattro drive to date.
But how did the Audi ice experience end up in Muonio? “1992 we were looking for a suitable venue for our winter training courses,” continues Demel. “I met a colleague from Technical Development at AUDI AG, which was doing its winter testing in Finland. He said to me: ‘There’s someone there who can organise everything for you. His name is Pertti Yliniemi.’” Demel set off from Rovaniemi on the 240 kilometre drive to Muonio. “It was an awful rainy day and I was wondering: ‘What on earth am I doing up here’,” the manager recalls perfectly. But then he met Yliniemi, who had answers to all his questions and quickly conjured up the perfect stage for this white winter wonderland.
The successful collaboration has continued to this day – even if it was fairly modest at the start. “We had 32 customers at two events,” Klaus Demel recalls the inaugural year of 1993. “Today we have more than 700 participants between the end of January and end of March.” Geography and climate dictate this period. Due to the limited daylight hours near to the Arctic Circle, starting the courses before the end of January is not really an option, while it gets too warm from the end of March and the snow melts.
The preparers get down to work as soon as the first layer of ice is formed on the lake in December. Before too much snow falls, the white layer of ice has to be cleared away – otherwise the crust of ice beneath will not grow. If the sheet of ice is still too thin, you won’t be able to create the handling course whatever clearing equipment you use. In the worst-case scenario, snowmobiles have to lay down the courses and compact the snow.
Thanks to the ever-growing community of Audi customers who appreciate what it is to drive on ice, the infrastructure in the region became better and better all the time. The many Audi driving experience events have turned the Hotel Olos into a five-star hotel, by no means a given in the sparsely populated region with just 1.2 inhabitants per square kilometre.
To date more than 10,000 Audi ice experience participants have come to appreciate the amenities in Finland. And Muonio has also benefited a little from Audi – thanks to a stroke of luck.