Tips & Safety

This is a “how to have more fun” at Cardrona guide along with tips & safety advice from Ski Patrol…

New to Cardrona? Plan Your Trip!

Check out our Mountain Information page including our range of services offered, or click here to view our mountain trail map.

For specific information, email us or phone the Cardrona Corner +64 3 443 7411 or during the winter season, our Mountain Office +64 3 443 7341 or Queenstown Office +64 3 442 4112.

Check the MetService 5 day forecast for an indicator of expected weather, snowfalls, wind & temperatures.

We update our daily snow report on our Snow Phone (+64 3 443 7007) from 6am daily.

Ski Patrol Tip: Save our Snow Phone number on your phone. It’s updated regularly along with the our website snow report & Facebook/Twitter feeds. 

Getting Here - Mountain Access


Cardrona is situated in the Southern Lakes Region of Central Otago, New Zealand. The Cardrona mountain road is found off the Cardrona Valley Road, which is in between Queenstown & Wanaka (click here for map).

Winter roads in Central Otago can be slippery, wet & icy. If you are unsure about your driving or the conditions there are regular shuttles & bus services between Queenstown, Wanaka & Cardrona.

Regional road conditions are available through AA/I-sites, the AA road conditions site & valley road signs.

The Cardrona mountain road is 13km long. Check our snow report for mountain road conditions & possible chain requirements. There are signs & staff at the bottom of the road which will inform you about tyre chain requirements. Please fit chains in the allocated bays.

Ski Patrol Tip: Keep your chains in the boot & drive to the conditions. Beware if it has rained overnight & the temperature has dropped to below 1 deg C. Polished snow or ice? Keep your gear low, slow down & avoid using excessive braking. 

Road Closures: Sudden storm conditions may require temporary road closures for snow clearing, avalanche control or road gritting. Follow staff instructions as cars may need to depart the mountain in controlled convoys.

For road advice or assistance call Mountain Admin +64 3 443 7341.
Road Emergencies: Phone 111 for Police & state name, location, problem & contact number.

Ski Patrol Tip: Leaving your car in the car park overnight? Please advise our Ticket Office if this is the case. Empty cars & missing persons prompt & incur search & rescue costs. 


Dress for the Mountain

Weather forecasts are not always reliable & conditions can change rapidly in alpine environments.

Check the daily Cardrona Snow Report or Facebook page for general conditions, lift openings & short-term outlooks. For more detailed regional weather forecasts visit the MetService website.

Make sure you wear multiple layers for comfort, you can always drop a few layers if you come prepared but can’t add a few if you didn’t bring enough! Start the layers with thermal undergarments & bring gloves, goggles & warm socks!

Patrol Tip 1:
Put a warm hat on (you can lose 14% of body heat through your head).

Patrol Tip 2: Getting cold while on the chairlift? Try wiggling your toes, stretching out your legs & start tightening/relaxing your grip on the poles to get that blood pumping.

Patrol Tip 3: On windy days wear robust wind-proof outer layers because strong winds cause excessive heat loss by convection. 

Although it can get quite chilly up the hill, the sun’s reflection off the snow exposes your skin to increased burning so remember your sunblock & lip balm!

Helmets & Armour: Cardrona recommends that guests wear a helmet for added protection. Wrist guards are also recommended for snowboarders.

The Cardrona General Store & Rental Department have essential clothing & safety equipment available for both sale & rental.

Mountain Trails

trailsignSee our trail map for a detailed guide of mountain trails & facilities.

Pocket a trail map from the Ticket Office & check out the easier Main Basin trails before heading over to Captain’s Basin. There are area maps & trail signs at the top of Whitestar & Captain’s chairlifts.

Ski Patrol Tip: If in doubt about trail location & difficulty, ask one of our slope safety, ski patrol or any staff member for advice. Ski patrollers are based at Whitestar & Captain’s lifts. 

Trail Difficulty: 

Green Circle 
– Beginner   Blue Square – Intermediate Red Rectangle – Advanced  Black Diamond – Expert

Trail Conditions: Cardrona’s main trails are machine groomed each evening. The trail condition is very dependent on snow condition & temperatures.

Weather & Snow Conditions

Trail signage & maps are highly important so keep an eye out. ‘White-out’ conditions can be dangerous so take care. Wearing yellow or orange-lensed goggles can significantly help in flat light conditions, as can skiing with a buddy & becoming familiar with a trail map. Sticking to main trails & following orange visibility flags is wise in low visibility conditions.

Patrol Tips: Check at the Ticket Office (either at the resort or at one of our offices in Queenstown or Wanaka) or online for the daily MetService Forecast before buying your ticket. Review late afternoon weather & forecasts for your next day planning.

Ensure you have enough food prepared for the day. Sliding on snow can burn a decent amount of energy & when you are tired you increase your risk of injury. The right types of food can also help combat the cold. While protein & fat will provide longer lasting energy, for quick heat energy you’ll need to munch some carbohydrates, including sugars.

Missing Persons? Advise Ski Patrol at a lift station or base area immediately.

Patrol Tip: Emergency Use – Put our Mountain Phone No. (+64 3 443 7341) on your mobile. State your Name, Clothing ID, Problem, Last Known Location & Phone No. 

Slope Safety

Cardrona endorses & follows the Snow Responsibility Code outlining mountain user etiquette.

Patrol Tip: Clowning about? Follow the Code or you’re down the road!

Our ‘slow’ signs are found in areas with frequently high traffic (usually close to lift lines) & where a trail may bottleneck. It is imperative that you ease off the gas when approaching a “Slow Zone” to avoid a possible collision.

Avalanche control including the use of explosives is undertaken by Ski Patrol. All rope & sign closures must be obeyed.

Avalanche risk can vary depending on temperature changes & snowfall. If you have any concerns about snow stability, don’t hesitate to ask Ski Patrol & look out for the ‘Avalanche Risk’ gauges around the resort.

Off Piste & Back Country

tips resort boundaryAs a courtesy to our guests & the community, Cardrona allows uphill access for ski touring, snowshoeing, & hiking (no snowmobiles) along 1 route within the resort operating boundary.

  • Please fill out a 2016 Winter Touring Register before departing for the day. These are located beside the Backcountry Advisory Sign in Carpark B, & at the Ski Patrol building in the Base Area
  • All uphill access is via the Skyline & Queenstown Return trails to the top of the Captain’s Express, with access starting in Carpark B at the Backcountry Advisory Sign
  • Uphill access is prohibited across the rest of the resort
  • Uphill travellers must stay to the outside of the trail & travel in single file. Make sure you can be seen from above at all times
  • Uphill access is permitted between 8.30am & 4pm & may be subject to environmental or operational closures. Open/closed status of uphill travel is posted at the bottom end of Skyline & Queenstown Return trails. Travel up the Cardrona mountain road may also be subject to the open/closed status of the road indicated at the Toll Gate
  • Any vehicle left in the carpark after 5pm must be notified to Patrol or will be subject to Search & Rescue costs
  • Downhill skiing/riding is allowed at any point along this route. All ski field closures must be obeyed
  • The Cardrona Alpine Resort operating boundary is clearly marked throughout the resort. No Ski Patrol response or avalanche control exists beyond this boundary. If you leave the operating boundary you are entering a backcountry area where avalanche & other hazards may exist

Terrain Parks


Follow the Terrain Park User Code:

  • Look before you leap
  • Easy style it
  • Respect gets respect

Cardrona’s terrain parks are located in the Main Basin & consist of: 

Lil’ Bucks Park – Beginner features on Footrot Flats, McDougall’s Quad. 
Stag Lane –
Intermediate-Advanced (mainly jib) features, Whitestar Express.
Antlers Alley – Intermediate-Advanced features, Whitestar Express
Big Bucks Park – Advanced-Expert features, Whitestar Express. 
Gravity Cross –
Course abilities vary, Whitestar Express. 
International Halfpipe –
Beginner-Intermediate halfpipe riders, McDougall’s Quad. 
Olympic Superpipe –
Advanced halfpipe riders, Wells Platter Lift.
Big Air –
Expert riders only, Wells Platter Lift, McDougall’s Quad.

Open/Closed Features
Features & park sections are closed for operational & safety reasons to protect guests & features. Check the Cardrona Snow Report & mountain signs for up-to-date facility statuses.

Cardrona Parks Crew Tip: Start small by scoping features & warm up in the beginner parks. 

Ski Patrol Tip: The higher you go, the harder the landing. Wear safety equipment when going aerial. 

Trail, terrain park & halfpipe closures:
Ski Patrol closes trails for safety reasons including weather, machine operating & snow safety. Our grooming vehicles work outside opening hours & in closed areas such as the Olympic Superpipe. The winch cats are particularly effective at moving snow long distances with cable assistance.

Patrol Tip: Respect closed areas where machines are operating for your own safety. 


If you witness an injury & are unable to reach the Mountain Phone, inform a patroller or lifty at any lift station or head to the closest resort building to let a staff member know.

Recommended tips when witnessing an injury:

1. Cross off the path directly above where the injured person is immediately. The most effective way to do this is by laying a snowboard across the snow with its base pointing up the mountain or cross your skis vertically to form an upright ‘X’. At least 10m up the hill from the injury site is recommended.

2. Do not touch the injured person if you do not have medical expertise.

3. Note any landmarks (lift towers, ridges, signs or terrain park features) close to the accident area to describe your location to patrol.

4. Call Patrol immediately or inform a patroller/lifty at a lift station.

Cardrona Alpine Search/ Avalanche Dogs

Cardrona contributes to regional avalanche safety with its support of NZ LandSAR Search Dogs Teams. Local alpine search dog team Anna Easthope & ‘Ra’ are based here at Cardrona. For more information check out Public Avalanche Danger Advisories are posted at Ski Patrol stations & at the top of the Captain’s Express.

Medical centres

Wanaka has 2 medical GP services:
Wanaka Medical Centre + 64 3 443 7811.
Aspiring Medical Centre +64 3 443 1226.
Both are housed together on the Cardrona Valley road along with physiotherapy +64 3 443 9136.
St John Ambulance, Wanaka +64 3 443 7076.
Emergency Calls 111.

Other Relevant Ski Area Signage

‘Keep Clear’ signs are usually found around lift off-ramps, ambulance bays & helicopter landing pads. Lingering around these for too long may cause traffic to clog up & can affect emergency procedures.


‘Trail Merge Signs’ are where numerous trails merge into 1, therefore it is sensible to take care in these areas & be aware that traffic may be joining your trail from different directions.

trail merge

‘Resort Boundary’ signs are indicators of where ski & hazard patrolling do not take place. If you wish to explore the terrain outside of the ski resort’s boundaries, please notify Ski Patrol of your intentions before you leave.


We hope you enjoyed these tips & safety – stay warm, stay safe & most importantly HAVE FUN!