Young Adventuress' Guide to Cardrona
We asked travel blogger, influencer and huge Cardrona fan, Young Adventuress, for her top tips for skiing, snowboarding and more at Cardrona. This is what she had to say!
Winter is officially here! It’s no secret that I love Cardrona. I’m so lucky to live in the heart of New Zealand’s ski scene where I get to jet up the mountain for a quick session or full day of powder hunting. I’m already fizzing for our powder days ahead!
Navigating the mountain is super simple and straightforward but as a seasoned traveller myself, I know how important it is to have a little bit of local intel to help steer you in the right direction. As a certified Cardrona junkie, I’m here to offer up my favourite spots and top tips to help make the most of your season.
Not everyone is into skiing and snowboarding, I know, I know. I’m not here to turn you into a powder hound but seriously, Cardrona has something for everyone. McDougall’s Chondola is a recent addition to the growing mountain and is perfect for those who want to get in on the action without actually getting in on the action.
Everyone should have the right to experience the magic of the mountain top in winter without having to ski down so if flying down the mountain at top speed is not your jam, come up for a coffee in the lounge and a ride on the Chondola. The covered cabins keep you warm and you can spend some time at the top enjoying the Vista Bar or simply keep riding back down. The views from the top of McDougall's are truly some of the most impressive on the entire mountain. Win-win!
Captain’s Express is one of my favourite lifts on the mountain. You can access it via McDougall’s or Whitestar Express lifts, which will take you to the Captain's Basin, filled with intermediate and advanced level runs. There are heaps of off-piste runs for the advanced and lots of groomed runs for those who are taking it easy, plus lots of ways to vary your runs. Despite being close to the Base, Captain's feels like another world with its own café and lift. You could easily spend your whole day exploring the trails on this part of the mountain.
Arcadia Basin and Arcadia Valley are perhaps my most favourite runs on the mountain! This area is often forgotten about and much quieter than the popular Captain's and McDougall’s. This is an intermediate route that takes you through the towering Arcadia Chutes, connecting you down to the cruisy green Comeback Trail. From here you can continue down to Valley View or back to Whitestar. If you're looking for a bit of peace and quiet, this is your spot.
Queenstown Return / Skyline:
Cat tracks are often poo-pooed off as an easy run that’s simply a connector between your favourite parts of the mountain, but in this case, the Queenstown Return is one of my favourite parts of the mountain.
Accessed from the top of Captain's, this easy cat track takes you the back way around the mountain, giving you unique views of the Soho Basin looking into Arrowtown. On a clear day, you can even see New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Aoraki/Mt. Cook!
With pristine slopes for miles, this might be the best spot on the whole mountain for a photo op. The best news? All of that powdery goodness will soon be skiable! Cardrona is expanding their operations over into Soho Basin so, within the next few years, you’ll be able to easily connect both sides of the mountain.
Cardrona does more than draw the local crowd, it’s made an international name for itself too! It attracts top talent from all over the world and has put itself on the map for being a Southern Hemisphere ski destination.
Luckily for you, that means having the opportunity to watch some of the best of the best from around the globe at the numerous events hosted by Cardrona; like the Winter Games NZ, the Jossi Wells Invitational, NZ Freestyle Open and so much more. The mountain stays open for business during events so you can spend your day skiing or boarding and when you need a break, relax and watch the pros show off.
Not all of the events are for the pros, of course. You can get involved too! One of my most favourite days at Cardrona is the Real Journey’s Queenstown Winter Festival from June 21–23. Snow Tubing, Tug ‘o’ War on Skis, and the Monteith’s Dog Derby are just some of the silly shenanigans you can look forward to. If you’ve ever wanted to sprint down the mountain with hundreds of furry friends, this is your chance!
Park at Valley View:
If you’re a first time Cardrona visitor, I’ll let you in on a little secret that will make your life a lot easier. Get your pass sorted in town before you go up the mountain (you can find Cardrona’s offices on the corner of Helwick and Dunmore St in Wanaka, or at 37 Camp St in Queenstown) and instead of driving all the way to the top of the mountain, turn off a bit earlier and park at Valley View.
You can stop in for a quick coffee at Little Meg then head up the Valley View lift. You can take this up to the main basin and keep going from there, or you can keep skiing the much quieter lower basin. This lift is good for intermediate riders so if you’re looking for strictly green runs, head straight to the Base to park.
Editor's note: Due to Covid-19, Valley View chairlift will not be operational for the 2020 season.