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|Base:||5,479 ft||1670 m|
|Summit:||6,102 ft||1860 m|
|Vertical:||1,968 ft||600 m|
|Ski Area:||988 acres||400 hectares|
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Cardrona ski resort is an hour and a half drive from the lakeside town of Queenstown New Zealand. It is one of four ski resorts within the proximity of Queenstown and just like the other ski resorts, Cardrona has a base lodge but no local town so most people will find their accommodations and nightlife in Queenstown. Queenstown is the New Zealand epicenter for outdoors activities.
New Zealand lies in the Southern hemisphere and thus has seasons which are the opposite of the Northern hemisphere. Cardrona's ski season is from the beginning of June till the end of October. Queenstown is much lower in elevation than the alpine resort and thus has comparatively mild temperatures.
New Zealand is made up of mountains which can be categorized as geologically new with steep and rugged terrain. While Cardrona has beginner terrain, the slopes favor the intermediate to expert skiers. The Cardrona base lodge has all of the amenities required for a day trip to the slopes. It also has enough terrain to explore to keep the curious busy for a day or two.
Queenstown Western lake shore
The entire Cardrona ski resort lies above the tree line with wide open terrain. The lifts at the base lodge serve beginner runs and the terrain park. For those wanting to explore the mountain, the gondola takes one to the peak to ski elsewhere. The terrain is also very open and visible with few surprises. There is a wonderful short hike from the top of "McDougall's Chondola" to higher terrain which had clean lines and more powder. Advanced skiers should also consider the Arcadia Chutes and the in-bounds terrain off of Secret Bowl. Snow conditions will be the ultimate factor in deciding what terrain to ski.
New Zealand resorts use the European color codes to rate trails:
The vast majority of runs at Cardrona are marked blue and red.
A view of the slopes of Cardrona looking back at the main lodge. Runs are wide open.
The easiest beginner run is the short run serviced by "magic carpet" lifts at the base of the mountain. The rest of the beginner runs seem to run through the terrain park services by the gondola. The prominent green run "Comeback Trail" in the middle of the trail map is only accessible from an intermediate run and thus is not an option for many beginners.
Beginner run and the covered "Magic Carpet" surface lift. Clearly the safest option for beginners
Beginner run: Footrot Flats (along side the terrain park) leading back to the base lodge
While there are intermediate runs through the terrain park, accessible from the "McDougall's Chondola" and "Whitestar Express" quad, take a right at the top to the regular intermediate runs which can be found on the right hand side of the trail map and serviced by the "Captain's Express" quad lift. Here you will find a variety of wide runs unencumbered by terrain park features.
The challenging runs are the adjacent off trail routes through rock formations such as the Arcadia Chutes or achieved by hiking to higher terrain. The short hike from the top of the gondola leads to a scenic peak with a view of both sides of the mountain: an inbound view of Cardrona and a view of Queenstown off in the distance from the backside of the mountain.
The hike to the peak of Cardrona: access from the top of the "McDougall's Chondola" Gondola lift. Take a left off of the top of the lift, then hike the ridge line. Be sure to take some time to enjoy the 360 degree view with Queenstown off to the distant left and the Cardrona ski resort to your right.
Hike to the peak of Cardrona from the top of the gondola
Continue hiking along the ridge line till you get to the top or a fall line that suits you
If steep gnarly chutes suit you, hike to the very top. Some entrances can be corniced and above one's level of expertise. Choose an appropriate entrance to suit your skill level.
Note that in bounds skiing is to the resort side of the mountain divide. The other direction shows the view towards Queenstown but does not lead to the resort or to any ski lifts. See it all in this 360 spherical panoramic view from the peak of Cardrona.
Arcadia Chutes: take the Whitestar Express Quad and head right at the top to the run "Upper Goldrush". Take this run down and look for main drop-in to Arcadia on your left. There are lots of secondary chutes. Be sure to study the area before trying alternate routes. The Arcadia chutes have two sections, an upper and lower section, divided by the "Arcadia Valley" run. Once you ski the upper Arcadia chutes and reach "Arcadia Valley" run, look for an entrance gate for the lower chutes.
Look for the entrance to Arcadia Chutes from the run "Upper Goldrush"
Top of Arcadia Chutes
Looking up at Arcadia Chutes
Looking up at Arcadia Chutes and an improvised jump
Looking down at "Arcadia Valley" run and the entrances to Arcadia Chutes to the skier's left.
Looking up at the lower Arcadia Chutes
Mush of the resort is either groomed or did not have enough snow and traffic to generate moguls and there was no area set aside and dedicated to the formation of moguls.
The entire resort is above the tree line, thus there is no tree skiing.
There is a fair amount of side-country terrain accessible through gates 1, 2 and 3. The terrain is accessible but the return is not marked or intuitive or necessarily down hill. In other words, you may have a nasty hike out. Don't ski it alone and take precautions. Guided heli-ski operators are also available in the region as an even better option.
Cardrona has a significant amount of terrain dedicated to terrain parks and it is all located above the main lodge, accessible from the "McDougall's Chondola" gondola. There is a vast array of jumps and rails as well as a half pipe. The terrain parks are assigned a size to help one determine the level of difficulty.
The terrain park is comprised of rails, tubes, table tops and jumps for all skill levels.
Lots of options
Jumps come in all sizes including Extra Large
The mountain base facilities include a rentals shop, repair shop, store and dining facilities with all of the basic amenities to support your day. One should look to nearby Queenstown for anything more. The base clears out not long after the lifts close.
English is the dominant language in New Zealand with spotty support for other languages. There is ample acceptance of Visa and Mastercard as well as for Automated Teller Machines to access cash.
Retail shop at the base of Cardrona
Inside the retail shop at the base of Cardrona