Wanaka/Queenstown Travel Diary: Three Days at Cardrona

I’m grouping day 4, 5 and 6 together because we skied all three days at Cardrona Alpine Resort. I have to say, this is my favourite ski field in New Zealand (although many may disagree with me). I’ve grouped the best and worst bits below.

The wins:

  • Great grooming – as I noted in an earlier post, the grooming at Cardrona is superb. Even after a fine week with no new snow, the groomers had worked their magic and spun corduroy perfection from carved up ice (with a healthy dose of man-made powder). I have yet to see another field performing as well of the grooming front in NZ.

    File 20-07-16, 6 23 30 PM.jpeg
    McDougall’s Lift
  • Wide trails – Perfect for people like me, who like a wide turn with a decent pitch. And with the work on the grooming, you can ski from top to bottom seamlessly.
  • Well designed trails – everything just seems to link up well. Unless you go well off trail, everything seems to link together, so there’s rarely a need to walk out to get to the next lift.
  • Well managed lifts – The mountain is well staffed, and unless a lift is quiet, they have people on pre-gate to direct traffic. This avoids the bun fights to get through the gate when things get busy (but can slow things down, see below)
  • Family friendly – the Skiwis and Lowriders programme for kids is second to none. This is a four day, full day course for kids to learn the basics. They’ve now introduced Ride Tribe for older, more experienced kids, who want to learn freestyling and other more advanced moves (while their parents look on in horror)
  • File 20-07-16, 6 20 11 PM.jpeg
    Rameny goodness, Noodle Bar

    Good food – sadly this is not consistent across all the food outlets on the mountain, but Cardrona offers some of the best alpine eating in the country. The ramen at the Noodle Bar is a standout. While not wholey authentic, it’s a damn fine bowl of noodles, slow cooked pork and broth. That alone will be enough to drag me back. Honorable mention also goes to The Mezz breakfasts. The smoked salmon eggs benedict is delicious and the coffee is hot and strong. Get in early (like pre-8.30) because it gets busy)

    File 20-07-16, 6 18 21 PM
    Eggs and bacon, Mezz style.
  • Parking options – when we first came to Cardrona 4 years ago, we were doing the super early shift to get the top carpark (which means you can access your car from Base by walking across the quad, but you need to be there pre-8). Over the years, we’ve discovered the Whitestar carpark (just below the Base), which offers an easy drop down to the Whitestar Chairlift. Now Cardrona have increased the size of the Valley View carpark and, as mentioned previously, installed Little Megs coffee cart.
    File 20-07-16, 6 20 57 PM.jpeg
    Little Megs, Valley View

    With the grooming (nach), you can park at the bottom of Valley View, grab a coffee and walk to the bottom of the lift to ski out. Except for on super busy days, this also means a slightly later start (unless you’re like my husband who has an obsession with “first tracks”). Friends arrived post 9 and had no issues with parking.

The losses:

  • It gets busy – by busy, I mean half hour waits in lift queues, especially at Captain’s. School holidays are particularly bad, especially when Treble Cone aren’t open (as per this year)
  • They can run out of food – when they get busy, they start running out. Understandable when they’re at the top of a mountain, but a frustration nonetheless
  • The drive is longer than other resorts in the area – from Wanaka, the journey is between 40-60 minutes. Longer if there’s snow and chains to be fitted. By comparison, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables are only about half an hour tops from Queenstown
  • They’re not partnered with other resorts – Coronet Peak, The Remarkables and Mount Hutt all work together so their ski passes are valid across all mountains. It would be great if Cardrona and Treble Cone could join the party.

The wins outweigh the losses. Cardrona is my favourite ski resort. I’ll fight you for it.

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Happy families, Cardrona
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