'Giant skateboard park for trucks': Off-road circuit at Area 27 officially opened

'Skateboard park for trucks'

Casey Richardson

Area 27 launched its ZR2 Off-Road Academy on Friday, inviting media and members to learn new driving skills in a range of all-terrain challenges.

The "Birds of Prey" off-road circuit is part of an expanded partnership with Chevrolet, building on public course options, like Area 27's Camaro Driving Academy.

Area 27 President Bill Drossos said they’ve had a great partnership with Chevrolet since 2019, and a year ago he suggested the course featuring Chevrolet trucks and off-road vehicles.

“It didn't take us long to come up with a computer model of what an off-road training place could look like,” he added. “And one of the GM executives said, ‘That looks like a giant skateboard park for trucks.’”

“He goes, ‘I like it.’ So we just said, Okay, ‘we'll build it.’ And we started, I think, in May and we're pretty much nearly complete today and we’re ready to launch.”

The new circuit features several natural off-road terrain elements, such as a fallen tree crossing, varying terrain including loose gravel, a riverbed rock crawl, and more.

The facility is open to Area 27 members and the public, offering drivers lessons in Chevrolet's 2023 Silverado.

“It's to get the basic skill sets and learn what a modern truck can do. You may encounter different things, if you're on a forest road or out in the wilderness, a tree has fallen in front of you, part of the road has washed out, or there are some rocks and you need to safely be able to get past that obstacle,” Drossos added.

“This course gives you some of those ideas on what you can safely navigate and maybe what you better not try.”

Drossos said that from a personal standpoint, he had used one of the trucks to get to Kelowna when Highway 97 was closed down.

“So I use the old Chute Lake Road and the old railway bed and half the things I learned here I put to good use on that route.”

The park environment was engineered to assist drivers as they develop their off-road techniques, combined with mechanical off-road assists, including a multitude of camera angles, inclinometer displays, heads-up driving displays and terrain-based driving modes.

“It makes you uncomfortable but it's not like being uncomfortable at speed when you're on the big track. It's just you're not used to driving a vehicle and seeing nothing but sky or nothing but the ground or being on two wheels, but it's all slow and controlled. It's a new technique. It's a new skill and it's just, exciting.”

Options for the future of the course include further amenities such as a dedicated classroom and more obstacles as Chevrolet and GM introduced new vehicles.

“Maybe down the road, we may have the Hummer EV and it may have an obstacle that only it can do. We've got room to build more things and more challenges. And who knows, this is just the start of it,” Drossos said.

“You don't have to own a truck to do this. If just anyone wants to try it and see what modern trucks can do, it's perfect. You can sign up to do a course and in less than half a day, you get a certificate and you've done all the obstacles in the program.”

The first sign-up dates for the experience start next week.

To find out more about the ZR2 Off-Road Experience or to book, visit the Area 27 website here.

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