Cardrona

Ski Resort in New Zealand

Introduction

Cardrona Alpine Resort is an alpine resort in New Zealand's South Island. The ski field ranges from 1,260m to 1,860m. The distribution of slopes is 25% beginner, 25% intermediate, 30% advanced and 20% expert. There are 2 detachable quad chairlifts, 1 fixed-grip quad chairlifts, 1 detachable express chondola, 3 surface conveyor learner lifts and 1 platter lift to service the halfpipes and big air jump. Snowmaking supplements the 2.9m average annual snowfall. Freestyle Snowboarding and skiing are well catered for with 2 half pipes and 4 terrain parks. There is also a "high performance centre" which trains more advanced skiers and snowboarders. Families with infants and young children can use child care facilities provided in the Cardrona Nursey and Ski Kindy.

The resort is located near Wanaka, 5 hours drive from Christchurch, and 50 minutes drive from Queenstown. On-mountain accommodation is provided in the form of 15 self-contained apartments.

Cardrona ski field is a favourite amongst many visitors staying in Queenstownor Wanaka. Cardrona NZ is not particularly ideal for powderhounds or experts, but the friendly atmosphere and wide open groomers make it very popular amongst families, beginners, intermediates and freestylers.

Views across the mountains and down into the South Lake Valley are beautiful, and the on-mountain accommodation, albeit limited, is also a major drawcard.


Cardrona info card

LocationSouth Island, New Zealand
Nearest cityWanaka, New Zealand
Vertical600 m
Top elevation1894 m
Base elevation1670 m
Skiable area345 hectares
Lift system6 total; 4 chairlifts (two fixed quads, one detachable quad, one detachable chondola), 2 magic learner, 1 platter
Lift capacity10200/hour
Terrain parks7 (2 Half Pipes, 4 parks and 1 gravity cross course)
Snowfall2.7 m (8.9 ft)
SnowmakingYes
Night skiingNo
Websitehttp://www.cardrona.com


Cardrona Accommodation

Many visitors to the Cardrona ski field stay in either Queenstown accommodation or Wanaka accommodation, but it’s also possible to stay in Cardrona Valley near the turn off to the ski area. There is also on-mountain accommodation within 15 apartments (2-4 bedrooms), only a one minute walk away from the lifts. Those staying on-mountain will need to BYO supplies and nightlife.


Ski Resort Facilities

The on-mountain facilities at the Cardrona ski resort are of a high standard and include eateries, fabulous child care services, ski school, equipment rental and a retail shop. As is typical in NZ, the facilities are limited for choice, but there are five cafes on the mountain so knock yourself out!


Cardrona Activities

Whilst the activities at Cardrona Alpine Resort are pretty much limited to the skiing and snowboarding, the proximity of Cardrona to Queenstown, Wanaka and Snowfarm means that there are a plethora of activities on offer for families, adventure seekers, or those just wanting a break from the slopes.


Cardrona Snow Conditions

Cardrona ski resort only receives 2.7 metres of snowfall annually but it retains the snow pretty well considering the southeast aspect. In comparison, Treble Cone gets a lot more snow than Cardrona (5.5m per season) and the top elevation is a thousand metres higher, but the TC aspect is warm and the snow is more prone to melting than at Cardrona.

Cardrona has snowmaking facilities on the main trails to supplement the snow that Mother Nature provides.

Transportation - Get In

Cardrona is an easy drive or bus ride from NZ’s most famous resort towns – Queenstown & Wanaka. These 2 lakeside destinations are surrounded by breath-taking alpine scenery & offer a dizzying array of activities, sights & sounds. If you’re looking for the ultimate holiday destination, this is it!

Drive Times:
Wanaka 34km / 35mins
Queenstown 58km / 60mins
Arrowtown 37km / 45mins


Cardrona’s Wanaka Bus Service

Scheduled pickup points.

7.40am – Wanaka Top 10 Holiday Park & Wyndham Ramada Resort
7.45am – Edgewater
7.55am – Wanaka Bakpaka
8am – Lakeside Apartments / The Moorings
8.05am – Wanaka Hotel
8.10am – Te Wanaka / Mountain View / Flying Kiwi Backpackers / Base / YHA Wanaka
8.15am – Paper Plus Bus Stop / Clearbrook Motel / Cnr Brownstown & McDougall
8.20am – Mercure Oakridge Resort Lake Wanaka
8.40am – Base of Mountain

Return bus will drop off at the same points, in reverse order. Tickets available from Cardrona Corner.

Wanaka Bus ServiceAdultChild
Single Day Return$35$28
Single Day Lift & Transport - Peak (July & Aug)$130$80
Single Day Lift & Transport - Off Peak (June, Sep & Oct)$127$83

Shuttle Buses from Queenstown

Queenstown Bus ServiceAdultChild
Single Day Return$49$35
Single Day Lift & Transport - Peak (July & Aug)$132$88
Single Day Lift & Transport - Off Peak (June, Sep & Oct)$129$85

Queenstown Transport Season Pass

Travel from Queenstown to/from Cardrona for the season with Real Journeys.

Queenstown Transport Season PassAdultChild
Full Season Transport Pass$399$299
Transport Saver Season Pass*$299$199

By car

The drive from Wanaka to the Cardrona ski resort is very easy via the meandering Cardrona Valley Road. Driving from Queenstown via the Crown Range Road is a little more challenging as the road crosses a mountain ridge and is fairly windy.

The 10km access road from Cardrona Valley up to Cardrona Alpine Resort is unpaved, and even though it’s a little better than some other NZ ski resort roads because it’s reasonably wide, it often has corrugations and can be rather slippery. There are a few dodgy looking fences that are strategically placed near drop-offs, but it’s unknown if they’d be functionally useful!

Chains are often required which can be hired from various petrol stations and ski shops in Queenstown and Wanaka (e.g. Outside Sports) or request chains from your car rental company.

Not surprisingly, quite a few people try to hitch a ride from Wanaka or the Cardrona turn-off up to the ski resort.

One of the car parks at Cardrona is at the level of the base buildings, whilst another couple of carparks are further down the hill. A zoo train shuttle is available from the lower car parks to get up, but you’ll need to walk down at the end of the day.

The car parks don’t have the same tendency to get as muddy as other nearby ski resorts. Wear your white pants if you're brave!

If you already have a lift ticket, a great option is to park at Tower Corner further down the hill (and ski down to the Whitestar lift), or at the Valley View area, but check that the Valley View quad chair is actually running.

Accommodation & Hotels

Ski Area

The main part of the Cardrona ski resort terrain is spread across three southeast facing bowls or zones, each serviced by a quad chairlift. The above timber line terrain is well suited to beginners, intermediates and shredders, and advanced riders will find enough off-piste terrain to keep them happy for a few days.

New for 2010 was the Valley View quad chair that extended the vertical drop to 600 metres and the resort size to 345 hectares. This area is at lower elevation than the existing part of the resort, so it’s sometimes not open and it relies heavily on snow-making.


Ski Cardrona - For the Beginner

Cardrona New Zealand is incredibly well set up for beginners so it scores 5 out of 5 from us. All green terrain is within view of the base area and there are nicely stepped progressions. Absolute novices can start in the very gentle terrain serviced by the magic carpets, then progress onto the platter lift and then onto Macdougall’s quad. Apart from the park riders, this area is dedicated to beginners so you can learn in relative peace.

Confident beginners can take a really long run down Shaun’s Way across to the Captain’s Café and along the Comeback trail.


Intermediate Skiing and Snowboarding

Cardrona doesn’t quite have the fall line ripping blue runs that a few NZ ski resorts have, but with a large proportion of the terrain dedicated to intermediates, Cardrona suits the blue runners pretty well. Prior to 2010 Cardrona ski resort didn’t have the vertical of other ski resorts so there weren’t any long runs for racing, although the new terrain has extended the Goldrush Downhill trail adequately to get the quads burning a little.


For the Family/Kids

In addition to the great beginners terrain and fenced off kids’ areas, Cardrona has the Fonterra Funzone that has groomed rollers and a tunnel for a bit of fun. The Playzone terrain park is also great for kids as an introduction to jibs.


Terrain Parks & Pipes

Cardrona does well to compete hard with the nearby Snowpark. It has up to three halfpipes including an Olympic sized superpipe, as well as a scary big jump used for competition. Cardrona has 4 terrain parks to cater for different ability (or confidence) levels, and there is also a challenging boardercross course.


Cardrona Ski Resort - Advanced Riders

Captain’s Basin has really interesting terrain features with lumps, bumps, and rock bands – lots of off-piste places for advanced riders to explore. Pick a line and go for it, but take care as none of the cliffs or small drops are marked.

The Arcadia Chutes area is also a bit of fun because there are lots of different rock features and a decent bit of pitch . The degree of challenge here really depends on the amount of snow cover. This area can also be testing for low-end advanced riders in low visibility because the trails aren’t marked.


Expert Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Some of the lines in the Arcadia Chutes area have short steep pitches for experts only, although the main challenge is when the chutes become tight due to a lack of snow cover. There are some drop-offs but perhaps save these for good visibility days.

Ski lifts & pass


Cardrona Lifts

  • McDougall’s Express Chondola (Main Basin)
    • 10x8-seater gondola cabins, 40x6-seater chairs
  • Whitestar Express (Main Basin)
    • 4-seater express chair
  • Captain’s Express (Captain's Basin)
    • 4-seater express chair
  • Valley View Quad (Valley View Basin)
    • 4-seater fixed grip chair
  • Wells Pipe Platter (Main Basin)
    • Platter lift to service our 2 halfpipes & Big Air jump
  • Conveyor Lifts (Main Basin - Beginner's Area)
    • 150m long SunKid Conveyor with 'Gallery' see-through tunnel
    • Mid-level Conveyor
    • Kindy Conveyor

Cardrona Day Lift & Flexi Passes

Every multi-day pass (more than 1 day) is valid for use at either Cardrona or Treble Cone with our Flexi Pass. The more you ski, the more you save – plus get massive benefits in Queenstown & Wanaka when you show your Flexi Pass!

Your lift pass will be stored on an electronic RFID pass. To make the most of your clever pass, activate your personal profile online. Once you’re logged into your profile you can:

  • Top up your card with lift passes, rental gear, lift & rental packages, lessons & more...
  • Keep track of your on-slope stats at Cardrona (days skied, run count, vertical metres covered)

Half Day & 1 Day lift passes are split into Peak & Off Peak pricing:
Peak - July & August
Off Peak - June, September & October.

Half day passes: 8.30am – 12.30pm morning, 12.30 –4pm afternoon

 2017 Lift PassesHalf Day Off PeakHalf Day Peak1 Day Off Peak1 Day PeakFlexi

2 Day*

Flexi

3 Day*

Flexi

4 Day*

Flexi

5 Day*

1 Day

Learner**

1 Lift
Adult Lift Pass

(per day)

 $75$80$99$110 $101$99$97$95$60$35
Adult Flexi Total$202$297$388$475
Child Lift Pass

(per day)

 $45$50$50$60$51$50$49$48 $40$25
Child Flexi Total$102$150$196$240
Student Lift Pass

(per day)

 $65$70 $80$90$78$76$75$73$60$35
Student

Flexi Total

 $156$228$300$365
Senior Lift Pass

(per day)

N/AN/A $65$75$65$64$63$62 $35
Senior

Flexi Total

 $130$192$252$310

*Flexi Passes are redeemable at both Cardrona & Treble Cone (operations for both mountains subject to weather & season dates) & access discounts towards a variety of activities in both Wanaka & Queenstown. Multi day passes are Flexi Passes as lift only – multi day lift & lesson or lift, lesson & rental packages are only valid at the resort through which they are purchased.

**Learner Passes include a full day of access to the Learner Conveyors, & one single ride up the McDougall's Chondola at any point during the day.

Flexi 5 Day pass holders will receive the Flexi 5 per day rate for the entire 2017 winter season.

Flexi passes are valid for both consecutive & non-consecutive days & can be used any time throughout the 2017 winter season.

Under 6yrs & 75yrs & older ski FREE!


Cardrona season passes

There are three passes to choose from:
Unlimited: Ski or ride on any day of the winter season & unlock a full range of gold benefits.
Saver: Avoid the peak holiday period & ski for a discounted rate for the rest of the season! Pass is not valid from June 30–July 20, 2018.
Gold: Cardrona Gold offers unlimited skiing, riding & mountain biking at Cardrona during 2017/18 Summer & 2018 Winter.

Price Freeze (Sale ends October 31)2018 Earlybird (from Nov. 1- Mar. 31)
Adult Unlimited$849$899
Adult Saver$599$649
Adult Gold$999$1099 (available until Dec. 2)
Child Unlimited$229$249
Child Saver$199$229

For season passes purchased prior to opening, all ages are taken from December 1, 2017 (summer) & June 1, 2018 (winter).

Child is 6 – 17yrs inclusive or currently attending school. Under 6yrs ski or ride for free. All lift users require a Cardrona MyCard. Photographic ID will be required.

Activities & Things to do

If skiing isn't enough for you, there is plenty to keep everyone entertained around the area. In fact, Cardrona probably has access to more activities and tours within an hour than any other location on this planet!

Cardrona Alpine Resort itself is limited in its activity offerings beyond skiing and snowboarding, but it is in close proximity to the action adventure capital of the world, Queenstown. And nearby Wanaka is fast catching up to Queenstown in the variety and number of activities available.

Alternatively Snowfarm is only 20 minutes from the Cardrona access road turn-off.


Snow Farm Activities

Snow Farm is a dedicated cross-country skiing resort with 50km of groomed tracks that cater for all ability levels. They provide lessons and have all the rental gear you’d need. In case you want to stay warm inside whilst other family members rip up the course, the large base building has various bars and cafes.

However Snowfarm is so much more than just cross-country skiing – it’s activity central!

Firstly you can go snowshoeing and explore the trails with a guide or DIY. Alternatively rent a tube and go tubing.

The Pisa Range plateaus near Snowfarm are also perfect for snowkiting. With a kite you can ski or snowboard up the hills as well as down! Snowkiting is also the perfect activity for slightly windy days where heli ski operators are not flying, or sitting on a chairlift at Cardrona is not super pleasant. Boarder Patrol offer 2 hour beginner lessons that include the use of the kiting equipment. They also offer 4 hour progression lessons in a small group format. Alternatively you can just rent the equipment.

Under Dog operates dog sledding on the cross country trails. This is a completely unique experience as this is the only commercial dog sledding company in New Zealand. Enjoy watching the craziness of the dogs being harnessed and enjoy the peace of sitting in the sled whilst the dogs sprint around the scenic tracks. They run short day time trips as well as overnight trips. You're guaranteed to have a howling good time!

Snowfarm is also used as a conference centre so there are other activities that are particularly targeted to corporates with a need for speed. The relatively flat slopes of the Pisa Range are ideal for hooning around on snowmobiles, and Snowfarm is home to the Southern Hemisphere Proving Grounds. Car companies from around the world come here to test cars on the skid pans, but advanced driving courses are also held at SPPG where corporates have fun whizzing around witches hats on the ice.


Other Skiing Activities

In addition to the cross-country skiing at Snowfarm and the freestyling at Snow Park, the region is renowned for heli skiing. Harris Mountains Heli Ski and Southern Lakes Heliski are based in Wanaka and Queenstown, and Alpine Heliski is based in Queenstown. See our respective reviews for more information.

Adventure Activities

When it comes to crazy and adventurous activities, the kiwis know how to do it best. There are just too many activities to speak of and you can be assured that if it has been invented, it probably exists in Queenstown. Favourites include the Shotover Jet Boat, Tandem Ski Diving or Paraponting, white water rafting (yes they do run during winter) and AJ Hackett's famous bungy jumping.

Wanaka also offers plenty of outdoor adventure activities. Some of this is centred round the lake including kayaking, windsurfing and sailing (depending upon your cold tolerance), and other opportunities include guided canyon adventures, scenic flights, hot-air ballooning, rock climbing, aerobatic (scare your pants off) flights and skydiving.

In Cardrona, if you like a bit of petrol powered adrenaline, you could visit Ian Soanes Adventure Park and take on some quad bike action and/or a monster truck ride.


Non-Adventure Activities

For a more relaxed option, cruises are available on Lake Wanaka and Lake Wakatipu (Queenstown).

Puzzling World is located on the outskirts of Wanaka. This is not just for children but also for others seeking a brain tease. In addition to lots of small puzzles and optical illusions, there is a big 1.5km long maze.

The Warbird museum just outside Wanaka displays various fighter aircraft from yesteryear.

There are many wineries around Wanaka in the Otago area that you can visit independently, or partake in a tour like Wanaka Wine Tours.

For complete relaxation there are a few day spas in Wanaka and plenty of day spas in Queenstown, or you can visit the rock pools at Oakridge Resort (only about 15 mins away) which are open to the public for a small fee. They include two large pools and many small hot tubs that are situated in a relaxed setting amongst rocks with the views of the mountains in the background.

Restaurants & Nightlife


Captain's Pizzeria

Location: Captain’s Basin, to the left of the bottom of Highway 89/A Real Journey

Offering: Famous pizza, Italian-style menu & delicious cabinet food & drinks

Captain’s Pizzeria is our home away from home in Captain’s Basin – ski here on-piste from the Main Basin via A Real Journey to try the famous pizza & other scrumptious menu items. It has been a Cardrona icon since it opened in 1986, & there’s still no better place to enjoy a spring afternoon in the sun than on the Captain’s Pizzeria deck! It's also the best spot on the mountain for a great brew, with local beer & cider on tap, including our collabs with Altitude Breweries & Zeffer Ciders. Try them with the scrummy tiramisu for an afternoon après session.


Base Café

Location: Downstairs in the Main Base Building

Offering: Self-service, freshly-made convenience food. Base Café is your 1-stop shop for food on the run!

With plenty of sweet things to keep your energy levels up & a wide array of fresh cabinet food, Base Café is a great stop to fill up on the go. Fill up with an award-winning Wanaka Bakery pie, or a home-made sandwich. Check out our famous Mountain Meals– a reasonably-priced meal that changes daily. Base Café is the home of our Courtyard dining – pull up a picnic table, have a cold drink & a hot meal in the sun!


Mezz Cafe 

Location: Upstairs from Base Café

Offering: Alpine dining – table service, restaurant-style

Mezz Café is the crème da la crème of Cardrona’s dining options! Mezz has breakfast, lunch & dinner a la carte dining, amazing coffee & a fully-stocked bar for those après ski afternoons. The Mezz menu proudly uses locally-sourced ingredients for mouth-watering meals. Ask one of our friendly servers about today’s Mezz Café specials.


Juice & Java

Location: Downstairs in the Main Base Building, in the corner beside the retail shop

Offering: Freshly-made juices, smoothies & coffee, & café-style breakfast & lunch options

Juice & Java is the ultimate stop to quench your thirst, no matter what time of day! The café-style menu includes delicious pastries, paninis & bagels for something quick & delicious for breakfast or lunch. Juice & Java is our go-to for warm, home-made soup every day – yum!!


Noodle Bar

Location: Top floor of the Bob the Builder building, ski in from Skyline Ridge

Offering: Asian-inspired noodles & sushi

Noodle Bar is the place to be if you have a hankering for Asian-inspired food. With a wide range of noodle dishes cooked right in front of your eyes, as well as freshly-made sushi, there’s something at Noodle Bar for every hungry tummy! Ski in from Skyline Ridge for an amazing slope-side dining experience. Noodle Bar has the best views of the Beginners’ Area, & with its latest refurb is also the hub for our Conferences & Venue Hire.

Pro tip: Noodle Bar is worth the trek up the stairs for your morning coffee, with much shorter waits than the other cafés. While you’re up there, try our new breakfast waffles!


Little Meg Café

Location: Bottom of Valley View Quad, beside the Valley View carpark

Offering: Snacks & coffee on the go

At the bottom of Valley View Quad is the Little Meg Café – perfect for a snack on the go. If you have your lift pass already, park at the bottom of Valley View, grab a coffee from Little Meg & get on the lifts before anyone else! It’s the perfect spot to get your early morning caffeine fix. Throughout the day, cruise down to Little Meg for some great tunes, fresh coffee, & cold locally-brewed beer at Cardrona’s golden nugget of a café!


 Vista Bar

Location: Top of McDougall's Chondola

Offering: Mumm champagne, craft beer, coffee & snacks

At the top of McDougall's Express Chondola is the brand new Vista Bar! Grab a cheeky glass of Mumm champagne, pull up a beanbag & watch the world go by! Take a photo with the Wakatipu Basin as your backdrop on the old Captain's swing chair. Whether you're skiing, snowboarding, or just up to check out the view, Vista Bar is your spot for a little bit of indulgence at the top of the mountain!


 The Lounge

Location: Base Area, right hand side of the Archway as you're looking down from the top of the mountain.

Offering: Full Real Journeys wine list, craft beer, coffee & deli-style bites

The old Kids' Club has been transformed into the Lounge – a sophisticated slopeside bar & aprés. Sit on the slopeside deck in the sun & have a quiet one with your mates, ski in for coffee at the slopeside window, or send a few emails from the mezzanine floor – the Lounge is the ultimate spot to catch up & get some refreshments.

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