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ULTIMATE Guide to Skiing at Cardrona Ski Resort & Unbiased Review

ULTIMATE Guide to Skiing at Cardrona Ski Resort & Unbiased Review

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Cardrona Ski Resort is one of the most famous ski fields in all of New Zealand. Located not far from Queenstown and only a stone’s throw away from Wanaka, Cardrona is both centrally located for tourists and in a very scenic location.

Here’s our review of Cardrona Ski Resort including information you should know before you go in order to have the best day hitting the slopes!

The other day Dan and I ventured further than our normal stomping ground for a day of skiing and snowboarding at Cardrona. We had heard so many good things about Cardrona Ski Resort that we just had to check it out for ourselves before the ski season ended.

And what better way to end the winter than to hit the slopes at one of New Zealand’s largest ski resorts!

This blog is all about Cardrona Ski Resort including our personal review and a couple of tips that you may find helpful if you plan on going for yourself.

About Cardrona Ski Resort

Bailey skiing at Cardron Ski resort in New Zealand

Cardrona Ski Resort originally opened in 1980. Since then it has only grown and is now one of the largest ski resorts in all of New Zealand. Offering dozens of groomed runs and 6 chairlifts/gondolas Cardrona is an impressive place to visit and an ideal spot for those wanting to ski or snowboard in New Zealand.

Cardrona Ski Resort is best known for its wide variety of runs and jumps suitable for the pros. In fact, many professionals from around the world base themselves at Cardrona for the ski season in New Zealand to train (especially since New Zealand’s winter is opposite to other popular ski locations in the USA and Canada.)

With insane mountain views and a variety of facilities, this is a common choice among locals and tourists looking for a ski resort too though. Cardrona Ski Resort is located close to the tourist towns of Queenstown and Wanaka making it the ideal skiing day trip!

The base of Cardrona Ski Resort sits at 1670 m (5480 ft) in elevation. This makes Cardrona higher up than many other nearby ski fields and therefore, it normally has the most snow and is opened for the longest period of time each winter.

Related Read: If you’re hopping ski fields in New Zealand here is what you should know before before skiing at Mt Hutt.

Where is Cardrona Ski Resort Located?

The closest town to Cardrona is Wanaka. Cardrona Ski Resort is located 34 km (21 miles) from the town of Wanaka in New Zealand’s South Island.

Cardrona Ski Resort is located about halfway between Queenstown and Wanaka via the Crown Range.

From Queenstown, Cardrona is 58.1 km (36 miles) away. It takes just under an hour to drive to Cardrona from Queenstown. However, bad weather or road conditions can make this time slightly longer.

If you want more information on other ski resorts are Queenstown, check out our blog all about the Queenstown ski season!

Related Read: While in New Zealand take advantage of all the free and cheap things to do in Queentown!

Getting to Cardrona

Crown range Road New Zealand
The Crown Range is a road that connects Queenstown and Wanaka, it is also where you start the climb up to Cardrona!

There are two ways you can get to Cardrona Ski Resort: drive yourself or take an organized shuttle from either Queenstown or Wanaka.

One thing to note about getting to Cardrona is that for the last 14 km (8.7 mi) of the drive as you climb the mountain, the road is gravel. This road can also be easily affected by snow and ice so it is important to carry snow chains at all times! The weather can change at a moment’s notice up there!

Along the drive, you will wind up through the clouds and have amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

If you do drive yourself with a rental car then you will have to get parking. If you arrive early enough then you could be able to park in the closest parking lot to the base. This is ideal as it is only a two-minute walk from the base. But, there is actually a lot of other parking available all within walking distance to the base.

We had a pleasant drive up to Cardona and our self-contained van tackled the road and the mountain just fine. We also arrived around 9:30 am, so we were able to park nice and close to the base without any problems.

If you don’t have your own car, buses can easily be arranged from both Queenstown, Wanaka, and the base of the mountain.

Check out Cardrona’s website for more info on the different transport options to Cardrona Alpine Resort!

Facilities at Cardrona Ski Resort

Cardrona Ski Field from the base of the mountain
Cardrona Ski Field from the base of the mountain

At Cardrona Ski Resort you will find multiple restaurants, bars, and cafes. There is also a large seating area that you can use if you pack your own lunch too.

There is a gear rental shop as well as a repair shop on site. You’ll also find a medical center as well as apartments for rent.

There are a few large (free) parking lots as well as a drop-off zone. Parking attendants will help direct you to a parking space.

Different Passes Available at Cardrona Ski Resort

Bailey takes a photo with the Cardron Ski Filed sign
This isn’t the actual chair lift!

If you’re heading to Cardrona this winter, you’re going to need a pass to make the most of your visit. Whether you’re just going sightseeing or if you are taking ski lessons, there is a pass for you! Here are the different passes available at Cardrona Ski Resort:

Winter Sightseeing Pass – This pass is for anybody who only wants to take the gondola up for sightseeing. It isn’t for skiers or snowboarders and is only good for one ride up and one ride down. The views are stunning up there!

Single-Day Lift Pass – This pass is for those who already have their own skiing or snowboarding gear and are only hitting the slopes for one day. It includes unlimited use of all of the lifts for just one day.

Multi-day Lift Pass – If you plan on visiting Cardrona Ski Resort for a couple of days, you can buy a multi-day pass which is cheaper than buying a couple of single-day passes. These passes do not include rental gear.

Single-day Pass with Rental Gear – This pass is perfect for someone on holiday who doesn’t have their own rental gear. This bundle package includes all of the gear you would need as well as unlimited lift access for one day.

First Timer Package – This package is perfect for beginners as it includes your lift pass, rental gear, and 4.5 hours of group instruction. So, if you’re new to skiing or snowboarding this is probably the perfect pass at Cardrona for you!

Season Pass – If you’re living in Queenstown or Wanaka, a season pass might be the best choice for you. They work out to be much cheaper if you’re going to go skiing several times during the season. The earlier you purchase your pass the cheaper you’ll get it for too!

Ski Gear Rentals for Cardrona

A super convenient place to rent ski equipment and ski clothes is in Wanaka from Snopro Ski Hire, you don’t even have to go to their storefront if you don’t want to because they will come and deliver straight to you! Super great if you are visiting without a car.

Gear and Rental Gear Combo – If you have yet to book your ski passes yet then this combo rental deal will be the best value! The ski pass will give you access to all lifts from 9 am until 4 pm. The gear will include skis, boots & poles or snowboards, boots, and wrist guards. You can pick up the gear from Queenstown, Wanaka, or Cardrona Alpine Resort. You can choose from 1 to 5-day rental lengths.

Cardrona Review: What I Thought of Cardrona Ski Resort

After visiting Cardrona Ski Resort for the first time, there were a few things I really enjoyed that set it apart from other ski resorts I’ve been to. Here’s my Cardrona Ski Resort review:

The Variety of Runs

map of all of the runs at cardrona
A map of all of the runs at Cardrona

When we first arrived at Cardrona it was a little bit overwhelming. There were so many different routes and I didn’t know where to start. Since I really only learned to ski this year, I am still a little nervous on my skis and wanted the first run of the day to be an easy one. If you’re newer to skiing (like I was) or need a refresher, definitely book the First Timer Package first!

Luckily, the chairlift closest to the base (Mcdougall’s Chondola) has two easy trails from the top. So that’s right where we started!

From the top of the “Mcdougall’s Chondola” chairlift, there are several different choices for runs to get back down. For our first run, we stayed on the green (or easy) option as a warm-up but on our next time up after we decided to adventure a bit more.

Bailey skis down Cardrona
Down I go!

There was a fairly flat trail called the “Over Run” that goes across the mountain to another side. From here, the views were completely different and we could take a slightly steeper and longer run to the bottom of the “Captain’s Express” chairlift.

There are so many runs it can be overwhelming at first, but it means there are runs for all experience levels which is great!

The Views

Bailey looks out at the mountains from the top of Cardrona Ski Resort
Not a bad view!

For me, one of the best things about skiing is getting to enjoy the beautiful mountain setting. Going to a new ski resort means more than just new runs to explore, it means completely different scenery!

At the top of the “Mcdougall’s” chairlift, there was a sign point pointing to a viewpoint. I just had to check it out! So we left my skis and Dan’s snowboard and went for a little walk. From the top, we had an amazing view of the white Southern Alps!

Everywhere we looked the views were amazing! Truly, Cardrona is a very scenic ski resort.

Related Read: Hiking Roys Peak for sunrise is an amazing thing to do in Wanaka!

Watching the Pros

A pro snowboarder does a jump at Cardrona Ski Resort
A pro snowboarder does a jump at Cardrona Ski Resort

The variety of runs available for all experience levels at Cardrona was great and I couldn’t help but be in awe of the professionals on the huge jumps. Every time I was on the chairlift I watched the jumps and saw some people getting insane air!

The Gondola “Chairlift”

taking the gondola at cardrona
The gondola was a great way to get up the mountain!

I also really like the gondola option on the “Mcdougall’s” chairlift. It was quite a windy day when we were there so sitting on the chairlift was cold, but inside the gondola was a much more enjoyable option!

Related Read: During the wintertime in New Zealand there’s an annual Queenstown Winter Festival that takes place. Fun for vistors and locals alike!

Where to Stay Near Cardrona Ski Resort

the outside of the Historic Cardrona Hotel in the winter
Stay at the historic Cardrona Hotel for the closest hotel to Cardrona. Photo Credit: Cardrona Hotel

There are lots of great options for places to stay in Wanaka which is the closest city to the Cardrona Ski Resort. Here are our top recommendations for every budget!

  • Wanaka Backpackers Bothy – These are dorm-style rooms that are perfect for budget travelers or backpackers, they offer clean and comfortable stays, and beds start at $32 NZD. It’s located right in the center of Wanaka, right across from Wanaka Lake, which makes it around a 40-minute drive to Cardrona.
  • Wanaka Hotel – The Wanaka Hotel is a luxury mid-range hotel 40 minutes by car from Cardrona Ski Resort. It is perfect for couples or families who want a nice hotel in a gorgeous location without the heft price tag. Private rooms start at $150 NZD for two people.
  • Bella Vista Motel Lake Wanaka – Bella Vista is another hotel in a fantastic location right across from the lake. It offers a massive gorgeous pool which is perfect for relaxing on a hot summer day. This is a really well-reviewed hotel in Wanaka in a central location 35 km (22 miles) from the ski resort.
  • Cardrona Hotel – Pretty much the closest you can stay to Cardrona Ski Resort without staying at the actual on-site resort. This historic hotel, while updated, still has character in the rooms and there is a restaurant and bar and a hot tub and ski gear drying room. Prices start at around $100 NZD for the standard-size room.

You can browse all of the accommodations available in Wanaka and book online in advance!

Other Things to do Near Cardrona in Wanaka

A couple on the top of roys peak
The lookout point on Roys Peak!

There is a huge range of things to do in Wanaka including:

Skydiving – Wanaka is one of the most beautiful places in the world to go skydiving. On your descent down you can see 6 different lakes, the Southern Alps, and Mount Cook.

Go Hiking – Some of the most popular around Wanaka besides Diamond Lake include Roys Peak and Isthmus Peak.

Get out on the lake –  You can walk along the foreshore, have a drink at a pub with a view or on a happy hour cruise, go paddleboarding or kayaking, enjoy a scenic boat cruise, or even go jet boating!

Explore Mou Waho Island – This Water Taxi and Island Tour include a round trip ferry across Lake Wanaka over to Mou Waho Island where you can then free walk and explore the island and its unique views and spot rare birds that are extinct on the mainland of New Zealand. If you prefer a bit more structure this option includes a guided walk once on the island.

Other adventure activities –  Climb a waterfall (via Ferrata), an experience that is sure to get your heart racing with excitement! You’ll cross over suspension bridges, see wonderful panoramas, and discover hidden pools en route to the base of the waterfall where the climb will begin! You don’t need any previous experience to do this activity.

Go canyoning, if you aren’t familiar with canyoning, essentially, you will be repelling down waterfalls! Soak up the views as a helicopter will take you to the top of Twin Falls Canyon where you will begin the day, and by the end of it, you’ll have gone through 10 different waterfalls.

Tackle kayaking in river rapids! If you aren’t quite keen on hiking or rappelling down a waterfall a river rapids kayak is a great happy medium! The rapids are only grade 1 or 2, so they are gentle enough for inexperienced kayakers!

Renting a Car or Campervan in New Zealand

Bailey takes a selfie with a JUCY campervan
Ready to hit the road!
Bailey stands infront of a JUCY campervan in New Zealand
JUCY is another favorite!

The first step to planning your New Zealand road trip is choosing your set of wheels! Most people rent a campervan or motorhome to get around, but you can also just rent a normal car and stay in hotels (as opposed to camping.)

You can search for rental cars online here in advance to compare car models and prices.

You can also do this with motorhomes and campervans on a website called Motorhome Republic. It shows all of the available campervans and motorhomes for your specific New Zealand road trip dates. You can compare prices and company reviews here too!

JUCY is our personal favorite campervan rental company in NZ. We love JUCY because they have such a range of both cars and campervans available, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to find something to suit your budget and travel style.

We’ve actually secured an exclusive discount code for our readers with JUCY. Just click here to browse their availability and use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off! What a good deal!

You can check prices, availability and book with JUCY online here.

Star RV is another company we personally recommend but specifically for motorhomes! They offer larger motorhomes (as opposed to budget campervans) at really reasonable rates.

Star RV has actually given us a discount code for our readers too! Use the code DTRAVEL24 at checkout to get 5% off your motorhome rental! Note, this code is only valid for bookings made before June 21, 2024 with travel dates before Dec 21, 2024. Click here to browse availability, prices, and book with our discount code!

Thanks for reading!

selfie at cardrona ski resort near wanaka
Thanks for reading!

The great facilities mixed with some beautiful views made our day at Cardrona one to remember! We do think it is one of the best ski resorts in New Zealand and definitely worth checking out if you’re planning on hitting the slopes!

We had a ton of adventures in New Zealand, check out all of our New Zealand blogs here! Otherwise, you might find our Queenstown blogs helpful, or some of our favorite articles below:

The Wanaka Lavender Farm

Things to do in Mount Cook National Park

Best things to do on New Zealand’s West Coast

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