Photo Courtesy of Bentley MotorsStoried British sports luxury marque Bentley celebrated its partnership with ultra high-end ski maker Zai over a weekend in Gstaad, Switzerland, showcasing the commitment to craftsmanship, ultimate performance and uncompromising attention to detail that characterizes the two brands.
Both the impeccably appointed new Bentley Continental range and Zai’s superlative skis were put to the test in one of the world’s most stunning Alpine locales. While not as glitzy as St. Moritz or Courchevel, Gstaad is nonetheless excruciatingly exclusive, though the focus is on serious sport and a commitment to bespoke luxury that goes beyond mere bank balances. Ostentation is gauche but great style is a must.
As such, it was the perfect setting for two brands whose incomparable excellence and unparalleled luxury tend toward the understated side; both having a powerful presence that quietly makes itself felt rather than demanding to be noticed. The Zai for Bentley Supersport skis were designed in homage to the extraordinary Continental Supersports, the most powerful Bentley road car ever made.
No mere branding exercise, Bentley’s engineers and Zai’s designers spent time at each other’s production facilities exchanging expertise in the worlds of automotive and sports equipment manufacturing to produce the skis, crafted of carbon fiber, steel, cedar wood and high-tech composites. The collaboration proved fantastically fortuitous for both.
In Gstaad, Bentley made top luxury hotel Gstaad Palace its home base, famed as the favored getaway for the wealthy and well bred as well as royalty of the Hollywood and Hapsburg kind, alike. While Bentley was in residence, Keira Knightley was spotted enjoying a break from the paparazzi in the discreetly opulent, castle-like resort perched above Gstaad like a grand vizier surveying his domain.
Gstaad has always provided sybaritic shelter for the rich and famous, from David Niven, Roger Moore and Grace Kelly in the past to the likes of Bernie Ecclestone, George Soros and Roman Polanski today. Movie buffs may also recognize the hotel from 1975’s Return of the Pink Panther.
In addition to various custom-tailored Continental GT models, Bentley brought the world-famous Bentley Continental Supersports Ice Speed Record (ISR) car to Gstaad, where it made even the jaded jetsetters at the Palace do a double take. Last February Juha Kankkunen set the world Ice Speed Record in the vehicle on the frozen waters of the Bay of Bothnia in Finland, achieving a speed of 205.48 mph. While in Gstaad Bentley and Zai also introduced a new winter pastime: skijoring with a Continental GT. World champion Franco Moro took to the snowy track on a pair of Zai for Bentley skis in a variation on the sport which usually employs actual horses to provide the horsepower.
While Kankkunen and Moro’s feats may be difficult to recreate, Bentley enthusiasts can now order one of the 100 Continental Supersports Convertible ISR models being handbuilt in Crewe UK, in homage to the record breaker; and they can also sign up for Bentley’s incredible new Power on Ice driving program in Finland from February 5–26.
The ISR edition, the most powerful Bentley ever made, features a 6-liter, twin turbo charged W12 engine with 631 hp, translating to 0–60 mph in 3.8 seconds. Power On Ice offers the chance to drive both the Continental GT and the Supersports on a purpose-built snow and ice course near where Kankkunen captured the record. Not bad substitutes.
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Jared Paul Stern