Rock climbing in a Land Rover makes for an adventurous gift


By Ted Biederman and Jim Meachen

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — A gift certificate to a Skip Barber driving school or a pass to the Richard Petty Experience may be the ultimate stocking stuffer gift for the guy who loves sports cars or just wants to go real fast on a NASCAR track.

But what if the object of your holiday giving has a macho sport utility parked in the driveway and his passion is more for truck-based vehicles than race cars? Land Rover has just the ticket — a gift certificate to the Land Rover Experience Driving School.

A participant doesn’t see a track or learn when to slow down and when to accelerate at Road Atlanta or Roebling Road, or how it feels be propelled at 190 miles per hour down the straight-away at the Daytona Motor Speedway.

A participant at the Land Rover school learns how to negotiate muddy ruts, roll across fallen trees and climb over large boulders.

The participant will learn about approach and departure angles. And he or she will spend as much time out of the truck as in, hiking ahead to determine if the next 200 yards is passable, and if not, how to proceed.

The off-road student will discover the proper use of 4-wheel drive low, how to descend a steep, slippery slope and tougher still, how to climb a hill of wet red clay.

Lead driving instructor Greg Nikolas spent a day giving a couple of journalists a first-hand look at the Land Rover Experience off-road course on the grounds of the Biltmore House Estate near Asheville. It was particularly instructive because of muddy, sloppy conditions from overnight rain that lingered into the morning.

We were driving a Land Rover LR3 with a winch attached. Nikolas said the winch might be necessary for some of the trails we were going to attempt. But we slogged through without incident, the first non-Land Rover people to go over several trails that had just been cut out of the forest.

The driving school at Biltmore was opened on June 26, 2004, on the 8,000-acre estate.
Land Rover also operates driving schools in Montebello, Quebec, and Carmel Valley, California.

At Carmel Valley, a one-hour lesson is $200, a two-hour session - $300.

A two-hour trail experience is $300 and four hours is $500. If you think you can stand the rigors of a full-day in the mud its $800.

There are also luxury programs for two starting at $2000. The resort time program, hotel and amenities are all 5-star.

If you want to learn the art of true off-road driving it will be worth every penny.
Nikolas said the Biltmore venue school has been highly successful attracting thousands of participants in the little more than the 3-years it has been open.

Biltmore has four full-time instructors and six part-time. A fleet of nine Land Rover vehicles including the Range Rover and LR3 are used.

Individual and group courses at Biltmore range from a one-hour session designed to introduce the concept of off-road driving techniques, to more intensive half-day and full-day programs.

A lesson also affords the participant the opportunity to drive a Range Rover, one of the most luxurious and capable off-road vehicles in the world. That in itself is almost worth the price of admission.

Our best achievement of the day — climbing a steep slippery hill — turned into our worst moment of the day when we stopped just yards from the top instead of continuing onto a flat surface. There was no way a stopped vehicle could gain any more forward motion.

The only alternative? Why backing down of course.

Thanks to the able direction of the lead instructor, the LR3 and we students reached the bottom of the hill safely.

And that’s what the driving school is intended to do — teach valuable lessons and safety.

For more information on the Land Rover Experience go to and follow the prompts.