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Hitting the Slopes at Cardrona Ski Resort

Last updated : March 12th, 2020

Bailey looks out at the mountains from the top of Cardrona Ski Resort


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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 of a 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.

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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.


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

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Getting to Cardrona

Crown range Road New Zealand
The Crown Range is a road which 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 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 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 2002 Toyota Hiace 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.

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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.

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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 for 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 if 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 on 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 holidays 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.

Beginner 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!


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 like the first run of the day to be an easy one.

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 “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 “Mcdougalls” 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.

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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!

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Before you go…

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:

-Bailey


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About the Author - destinationlesstravel

We are Dan and Bailey, just your typical thrill-seeking travelers! You will likely find us hiking, scuba diving, catching public transport, or just drinking beer at a hostel.

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