Cardrona is a very popular resort with snowboarders, family’s and just about every snow enthusiast in the know. It is steeped in a rich history and has developed a fine snowboarding heritage and culture. Their passionate shredding faithful enjoy its wide open trails, challenging chutes and varied terrain. Along with world-class beginner facilities & the Southern Hemisphere’s most extensive terrain parks, there’s something for every snowboarder at Cardrona.
- Access: Fly into Queenstown International Airport, drive from Queenstown over the Crown range 58km (60mins). Or from Arrowtown 37km (45mins). Frome the other side of the range it’s a short drive from Wanaka 34km (35mins). The access road to the mountain is 14km long, unsealed and often affected by snowfall. Chains are available on the Cardrona Mt Rd and are fitted for you by the chain crew. Alternatively you can park at the base of the mountain and catch a shuttle up. Also, busses run from Wanaka and Queenstown often, book here with the reservations team.
- Season: Early June (10th, 2017) – Mid October (15th, 2017)
- Number of Lifts: 8; with 1 x 8 seater express “chondola” and 3 x 4 seat chairs
- Lift Ticket Prices: $110-Adult 1 day, $202-2 day Flexi Pass, $297-3 day Flexi Pass, $388-4 day Flexi Pass; Children start at $60 per day. Seniors $90 per day. Discount packages, off peak and student rates available at cardrona.com
- Park Facilities: 4 terrain parks from a beginner park through to a FIS Slopestyle course. Olympic 22ft Superpipe and a 14ft International Minipipe. Big Air – a massive 85+ ft kicker! Gravity Cross course (boardercross).
- Top Features: Home of the Audi Winter Games, the first stop on the Olympic qualifying, international FIS circuit. Billabong Banked Slalom in the Gravity X. Jossi Wells Invitational Big Air.
Catch Cardrona’s Super Fast Chondolla
Cardrona has over 345 hectares of shreddable terrain with a 50/50 split of beginner to intermediate, and advanced to expert runs. The highest lifted point of the mountain is at 1860m, accessed by the 8 seater McDougall Express. The McDougall is new for 2017 and has been called a “chondolla” by the resort. Whats a chondolla you ask? Well it’s New Zealand’s only cabin style lift on snow, half chairs, half gondolas. The lift has been designed to be fast and easy loading, so no more hold ups when a newb falls off (…but less lol’s aswell). It accesses most of the front basin including the parks and pipes and gets you to the summit in just four minutes. Wow!
Cardrona resort is split into two valleys. If you are lucky enough to arrive while there’s fresh snow around, then get over to the far valley as soon as you can. It’s called the Captains Basin and you get across from the 8 chair express to the right via cat track. From the cat track you drop into some nice quick, open trails down to the Captains Express quad. At the top of the chair, follow the ridge around to the left as far as you can and you will usually find fresh snow, chutes and boulder hits. Session it during the morning till it’s tracked out. It’s perfect because these run right down to the Captain’s Cafe. So when your legs are starting to feel the burn, you can grab a coffee, regroup, then drop back down to the lift and hit it again.
Drop Eagle Rock!
Another cool natural feature on this side of the mountain is Eagle Rock. You can see it off to the right of the chair towards the top. The rocky outcrop features heaps of big natural hits into powdery snow pockets. Also plenty of cliff drop angles, from a little full-on to W.T.F!, depending on how you take it. The cool thing is that all this is accessible straight off the chair and open to hammer at your own risk.
On a really good season, the small transitional section between the two ski areas can be well worth the traverse. Called “Arcadia Valley”, this steep rocky bunch of cliffs, chutes and natural halfpipes are a gold mine for experienced freeride fans. Warning, don’t attempt these runs if they’re closed or unless you are a skilled, expert snowboarder. Drop into the chutes just by the fence at the top of the Whitestar chair then stay right and follow the trail right down to the cat track at the edge of the resort.
Follow this track around to the right and when you see the tunnel coming up, drop off the track to your left. This steep powdery bowl will take you right down to the Valley View Quad and car park. You may have seen this off the entrance road on your way up, and after good snow, this little bowl can be a lot of fun. Often forgotten about, the outer edges of this area are often quiet and full of powder stashes.
The 22ft Superpipe and 85ft Big Air, not for Foolin
The front face above the main base car park and big clock contains the beginners area, lesson pick up spot, halfpipes and terrain parks. It features easy rolling hills serviced by two express chairs, the McDougall 8, and a little further down, the Whitestar Quad.
Boarders right off both chairs will take you through some pretty easy mellow runs. Far right is the halfpipe and big air with it’s own rope pull so you can session it all mourning, if your skills are up to it? Although open to the public, these beast’s are not foolin round. Both the 22ft Olympic Superpipe and 85ft big air kicker are used for off season training by some of the worlds best. They are kept in mint condition by the world class Cardrona parks team. Both are tested on the world stage during the Audi Quattro Winter Games held annually in Cardrona. To keep their shape they are usually closed by mid afternoon as the snow gets softer. So get in early to for-fill your death wish…
Boarders left off the chairs will take you through the parks. Here you’ll catch up and coming Kiwi shredders charging shoulder to shoulder with international X Games athletes. To see whats happening in the Cardrona parks check out their Facebook page.
If you are just warming up to the park, head down to the Lil’ Bucks situated right in the middle of the front valley. It has about 4 little kickers ranging from 5-10ft. Above them are a few little ride on jibs so you can get your feel and balance checked.
Cardrona’s World Class Progressive Parks
Underneath the Whitestar chair to the left is Antlers Ally. This intermediate progressive park will help you grow confidence and build up your bag-o-tricks. It has a triple jump line starting at 15ft, working up to 30ft. After that is a combination of ollie-on and step-up jibs. This is a fun park with plenty of cool slopestyle line options. If you get psyched out, just pull out to the left on to the “Sluice Box” for a nice quick open run down to the chair.
The next step up is Stag Lane. This is a jib heavy line that runs to the left of the Big Buck Park. It has more rails and jibs then you can count on two hands. With long down rails and pipes, flat-down rails, a massive up-flat-down box, double kink rails, wall rides and plenty of bonks abound. This is your opportunity to show off some creative flair. But be careful, those jibs come at you fast, and you’ll need to keep it rolling for the awesome double stair set at the bottom. There is even a nice spine hit at mid way, and a couple of 30ft table tops to finish.
Finally, it’s on to the Big Buck’s Park. This XL, no bullshit park is built for pro standard riders. It features a few super tech, larger rails that run into an epic line of jumps that range from 50 – 70ft! After that you break off into either the bottom jib line of Stag Lane or across for more hits in Antlers Ally. This park is used for World Cup freestyle events, so if you think you’re the next McMorris-esk slopestyle hero, you can test your metal here.
Banning the Reckless Rebals
It’s not always been rainbow shreds and lollipop ollies for snowboarders at Cardrona though. During the 80’s when surfers and skaters were experimenting with boards, boots and binding systems on snow, Cardrona ski area actually banned the sport. After a collision between an early snowboarding pioneer and a mountain and one of the ski patrol, it was deemed that snowboarders were to reckless to share the hill. Cardrona was the only resort in New Zealand to ban snowboarding.
It wasn’t till the mountains operational manager was taken for his first shred in 1989 that the ban was lifted. The next year Cardrona built a halfpipe, and it in turn attracted many of New Zealand’s now legendary snowboarders of the 90’s. Ewan Straight and Graham “Spy” Dunbar amongst them. The pair helped shape the future, main stream acceptance of the sport. They ran the NZ Snowboard Nationals and the NZ Snowboards Instructors Association in Cardrona. Quite a turn around, eh bro?
Fuel Up on the Go…
If you need sustenance on the hill, head over to the Captain’s Pizzeria. At the bottom of Captains basin it’s the best option for a relaxed lunch or apres session away from the crowds. With a chill vibe on the slope side balcony, grab a pizza and catch some rays. They also have a collab with local brewers Altitude beer and Zeffer ciders. Get a well earned frosty brew on tap, and put your feet up for a while.
More standard bistro food and atmosphere can be found at the base cafe in the main base building. They’ve got the famously good Kiwi meat pies or sandwiches and a daily special on offer. It’s a good place to fill up on the go. Upstairs is the Mezz Cafe. They do a more substantial a-la-carte menu. This is the best place to get coffee, a cocktail and a “proper sit down fancy” meal.
If you’re after something a bit more exotic, try the noodle bar at the top of the tower above the baby creche. Climb a million stairs for Asian inspired noodle dishes, wok cooked while you wait. They also do fresh sushi. The views are pretty good from the top, and it’s our pick for something healthy, delicious and different. It’s funny watching people try to tackle the stairs in ski boots as well…
Stop in at the Legendary Cardrona Hotel
Finally, no trip across the Crown Range is complete without a visit to the Cardrona Hotel. Established in 1863 this is one of N.Z’s oldest and most iconic hotels. The rustic decor is a throw back to the gold rush era of the valley, and makes for a great photo op. Behind the historic facade you will find a fantastic beer garden with fire pit, a good old fashioned public bar and a fine restaurant. Open breakfast, lunch and dinner, the restaurant serves up a modern take on traditional pub fare. At the bar you can get good quick meal deals guaranteed to be cooked in under ten minutes. It’s a legendary place, and great for a quick bite, or a long apres stop.
Cardrona has been hosting the Audi Quattro Winter Games for the last eight years. With FIS World Cup events in Slopestyle and Halfpipe, this years event will be critical for athletes looking to gain a place in their country’s teams for the up coming Winter Olympics – PyeongChang 2018. The event is held in September and is worth thinking about when booking your visit. All the biggest names in competitive snowboarding will be there and it is free to watch with a lift ticket.
Cardrona Loves You
All in all, Cardrona is just a fun place to ride. It has everything you need from your day at a resort. All the runs, beginner to expert, are well thought out and groomed to perfection. It has great, fast lift systems that access some cool varied terrain. The parks are world class and the friendly mountain team are passionate at work. If you are visiting NZ’s South Island to shred, make a trip to Cardrona a priority, you’ll be glad you did.