With wide open terrain, a great mix of runs for all levels of expertise, spectacular views, and
a fun cast of characters, we have been enticed back to Cardrona many times.
'Footrot Flats' run.
Beautiful bluebird day at Cardrona!
Our girls are always excited for a day on Cardrona, with friendly local characters, helpful
'lifties', warm cafes and great skiing on offer. When travelling to New Zealand skiing, before
basing ourselves in Wanaka, we tended to ski Cardrona in the early spring. Our reasoning was
that we would be more likely to get fine weather and a decent base. This plan seemed to work
well for us. Although, great skiing can be had at Cardrona all through the ski season!
Getting to Cardrona
The Cardrona Alpine Resort is located in the Southern Alps in the South Island of New Zealand
(Aotearoa). Cardrona is only a 34km drive from Wanaka and 58km from Queenstown, with the last
14km an unsealed, winding access road. If you are driving up then carrying snow chains is
compulsory. Take the road at your own pace, and pull off in the slow-vehicle areas if there is a
line of cars behind you. There are plenty of options for getting up to Cardrona if you are not
keen on driving yourself.
We tend to head up early in the morning to get a car park close to the top to make it easier to
walk to the base. If you have to park in the lower car parks there is a free shuttle service
that do regular pickups and will drop you off at the base area. There is also a drop-off zone up
the top where you can unload people and gear, and then find a park.
You can get your ski passes at the base area once you get up to Cardrona or if you are coming
from Wanaka or Queenstown you can purchase passes in the Cardrona stores. You can even
pre-purchase passes online and pick them up in store or up at Cardrona. We have found that
buying lift passes before heading up works best for us; one less thing to organise once you get
up the mountain! If you have children under 6 years old they ski for free! This was great for
our first couple of ski trips. Depending on the length of your ski trip it might be worth buying
a season pass; check out the latest
ticket prices on the resort website.
You can hire most of the gear you need for a day skiing or boarding up on the mountain,
including accessories like jackets and pants, helmet and googles. If you are new to snow sports,
then one of the benefits of hiring gear on the mountain is that if you find something doesn't
fit correctly you can take it back and get it sorted straight away, rather than having to put up
Ready to head up 'McDougall's Chondola'.
'Captain's Express Quad'.
Covered magic carpet at the beginners' area.
Cardrona is a great mountain for all skill levels. There is a great, gentle learners area
accessed via a covered magic carpet, for
children just starting out, and some wide, open runs to test their skills later on. Once you are
ready to advance from the beginners area on to some more challenging runs take the 'McDougall's
Chondola', a combination of a chairlift and gondola, to access two long green runs that work
their way back down to the base; 'Westons trail' then on to either 'Skyline' or 'Footrot Flats'.
Our girls are always keen to try harder and harder runs, often beyond their skill level, which
keeps us on our toes and our hearts in our mouths! If you are keen to try out some intermediate
(blue) runs then the 'Whitestar Express Quad' chair services some nice wide runs either side of
a terrain park. Cardrona has some great terrain parks and half pipes to play on too!
If you are after some more intermediate and advanced terrain then head over to to the 'Captains
Express Quad', or if it is 'Expert' grade (black) runs you are after try the 'Valley
View Quad' chair. Check out the trail map on Cardrona's website for an overall
picture of the terrain and
a map of all chairs and runs.
Up top at Cardrona.
A beautiful blue-bird day at Cardrona!
Rest and refuel
There are some great spots to warm-up and get something to eat on
the mountain. We have spent plenty of time in the 'Base Cafe' and 'Base Bar', or sitting
outside at 'The Lounge', warming up with a hot chocolate. The 'Base Bar' does a pretty good
espresso! There is free hot and cold water at the 'Base Cafe' to rehydrate before heading back
out. Our eldest loves calling in to 'Captain's Pizzeria', located near the base of the
'Captain's Express Quad', as a treat for skiing all the way there.
Hot chocolate at 'Captain's Pizzeria'.
Chilling at 'The Lounge', waiting for hot chocolate!
Hot chocolate at the 'Base Bar'.
A Cast of Characters!
Whenever we head up to Cardrona the girls like to chase down some of the local crazy characters!
Carol, Pengi and Frosty are favourites. Carol is always ready with a smile and a chat with
the girls on what they have been up to on the mountain. See a great interview here
with Carol by The Snow Chasers.
Catching up with Carol!
A great way to finish off a day in the snow at Cardrona is to drop in to the
a 'fluffy' ('Baby-chino' in Australian) and a warmup by the fire. The hotel has a big outdoor
area to chill-out by an open fire or for a play on the swings.
The 'Cardrona Hotel'.
'Fluffies' at the 'Cardrona Hotel'.
Playing on the swings, 'Cardrona Hotel'.
Treble Cone has some awesome, challenging terrain, wide open bowls with natural pipes, and
spectacular views over Lake Wanaka.
Spectacular views at Treble Cone!
Sunrise at Treble Cone!
Since their first time up at Treble Cone our girls have always been keen to head up and
challenge themselves on the steep terrain. Boasting the largest ski area in New Zealand's South
Island there is plenty of fun to be had at Treble Cone.
Getting to Treble Cone
Treble Cone (TC) is a short 30km drive from Wanaka and a 96km drive from Queenstown via the
Crown Range. The last 7.5km is a winding, gravel track to the base area, so take your time
and follow signage instructions for snow chain fitting, if they are required.
There is a small drop off area at the base for unloading people and gear, however most parking
at TC is close to the lifts and the base area.
Lift Passes and Gear Hire
You can purchase lift passes on the mountain, online or in Wanaka and Queenstown before you head
up. Children aged 6 and under get to ski for free, but make sure to check out the TC website for
current ticket prices.
Ski and snowboard gear can be hired on the mountain, at the base area rental shop. If you have
only a couple of days on the snow, renting your gear on the mountain can be very handy. If you
find the gear isn't the right fit you can easily get it changed. If you need to hire more than
skis and snowboards check out the TC website
for a range of clothing and accessories.
Warmup on 'Easy Rider'.
Beautiful morning at Treble Cone!
First ride on a Poma, at the 'Nice 'n' Easy Platter'.
TC does not have a lot of beginner runs, their website says 10%, so is not the best
mountain for the absolute beginner. However, there is a very short magic carpet, for
the absolute beginner, near the base area. When you get going, behind the carpet, is the 'Nice
'n' Easy Platter', which is a great, gentle beginner slope, accessed via a
Poma or Platter Lift. If it is your children's first time using a Poma there is always a helpful
lifty on hand to give you some tips. Our girls had a ball racing each other down the 'Nice 'n'
Easy Platter' and loved riding the Poma back up by themselves.
Once you are ready for the mountain there is a long snaking, beginner run, the 'Easy
Rider', that winds its way from the top of the 'Home Basin Express' lift back to the base
area. This long run gives you a great feel for the Home Basin terrain so is a good introductory
or warmup run before tackling some of the more challenging runs.
TC has a lot of intermediate (blue), advanced (red) and expert (black) terrain, concentrated in
two main basins, the 'Home Basin', accessed via the 'Home Basin Express' chair and the 'Saddle
Basin' via the 'Saddle Basin Quad'.
To get to the 'Saddle Basin' take the 'Saddle Track' from the top of the 'Home Basin Express'
lift. The 'Saddle Basin' has some great natural pipes, which are fun for the advanced
skier. Try 'Upper Shooter' to 'Shooter', but if it is a little too much for you then you can
exit onto 'Saddle Back' a nice wide, steep intermediate run back to the lift. The 'Super Pipe'
is also an exciting run down a natural pipe.
When the snow conditions are favourable two more basins open up, the 'Motatapu Basin' and the
'Matukituki Basin', extending the advanced and expert terrain.
Cruising the 'Easy Rider on the 'Home Basin'.
Ripping up 'Big Skite' on the 'Home Basin'.
Rest and refuel
The main base area has plenty of food and drink options, and a decent size indoor area to
warm-up and have something to eat. When the weather is nice, the big outdoor area at the base
has a great atmosphere, with an open fire, music, and a great view of the main basin, makes it
the perfect spot to rest and refuel. With parking close to the base area, you can also have a
picnic back at your vehicle.
Keep an eye out for Keas, they are a beautiful, large native alpine parrot, that are very
relaxed around people and very curious; we witnessed a Kea opening a backpack and searching
through it for food!
Waiting for the lifts to open and a hot chocolate!
Great outdoor area to rest and refuel.
Wanaka, surrounded by mountains, on the edge of a beautiful lake, very close to two
great ski fields, what is not to love!
The girls, beachside, Lake Wanaka.
Beautiful Lake Wanaka.
We loved our ski trips to Wanaka so much over the years that we decided to make it our home, for
the time being!
Wanaka is located at the southern end of Lake Wanaka, in the Otago Region of the South Island of
New Zealand. Wanaka is the perfect base for skiing both Cardrona and Treble Cone, which are
only 35 minutes drive away. The 'Snow Farm', for cross country skiing and snow tubing, is a
short 33km drive from Wanaka. Additionally, Queenstown, and access to The Remarkables ski
resort and Coronet Peak ski resort, is only a little over an hour away.
There are lots of good ski gear and ski hire shops in town to kit yourself out, or to tune up
your skis, before hitting the slopes. If you are planning to head up to Cardrona or Treble Cone,
and why wouldn't you, it is a good idea to drop in to the Cardrona shop to sort out your lift
passes, ski hire, transport, or anything you need to know for a great day on the mountain. You
can always purchase your lift passes once you get on the mountain but we have found it more
convenient to get them sorted before heading up.
Exploring the beachfront of Lake Wanaka.
Downtown Wanaka at sunset.
Coffee and hot chocolate
We have found some great spots to have coffee and a hot chocolate over the years, here are some
of our favourites!
The best coffee we have had so far in Wanaka is from 'Patagonia Chocolates' and the 'The Coffee
Chocolates' make a great espresso, the secret to which is that they roast
their own coffee on site! They also make an amazing hot chocolate, which is made with real
chocolate! 'The Coffee
Shack' is a converted garage right in the heart of Wanaka, where they
make a great espresso, and our girls report that the hot chocolate is well worth a try! Although
mostly take-away, there is a little spot outside where you can sit and enjoy your coffee when
the weather is nice.
is a hidden gem, a little out of the main centre of Wanaka, but still within
walking distance; well worth tracking down. They operate out of a neat little van, with a nice
area to sit outside, or on beanbags under a nectarine tree and enjoy a well made coffee. 'Kai
Whakapai' is another great spot where we have had consistently good coffee and friendly
service. There is a cozy atmosphere inside and a lot of outdoor seating with a great view of the
Food vans! In their great new digs (2021).
The 'Little Black Caravan'.
Extraordinary, single origin espresso from 'Coffee Dojo'.
Wanaka has plenty of great cafes, food vans and restaurants. Like a lot of ski towns some of the
restaurants can be a little expensive, but great quality from what we have experienced so far.
'Francesca's Italian Kitchen' is our clear favourite restaurant so far! The warm, inviting
atmosphere, friendly service and the smell of pizza cooking in the wood-fired oven. The food is
amazing! We love the braised beef cheek and gnocchi, and our girls loved the regina margherita
pizza. The potato skins with truffle oil is a winning starter and cannoli the perfect way to
The food vans on Brownston Street serve a fantastic variety of food, with friendly service. You
can tell you are getting close when the great smell of their food reaches you, and once you
arrive there is nice little outdoor area where you can enjoy the food. So far we have
tried 'Firebird', 'Burrito Craft' and 'Chickpea'. 'Firebird' has one of the best fried chicken
burgers we have ever tasted,
which we have verified on return visits! 'Burrito Craft' does a pretty mean burrito, with
generous serving size, a vast range of chilli sauces to choose from, and a menu for the whole
family. 'Chickpeas' offers
a variety of vegetarian and carnivore options, we all loved the samosas!
'The Coffee Shack'.
When taking a day off skiing, exploring Wanaka was our favourite thing to do. A wander along
the lakefront, checking out the shops and cafes, or a walk up Mt. Iron for a spectacular
360° view of Wanaka and surrounding areas. 'Puzzling World' was another day-off activity
that our girls loved, so much so that they were keen to visit it again on subsequent trips to
'Bullock Creek' running into Lake Wanaka.
View of Wanaka from the top of 'Mt. Iron'.
'Clip 'n Climb' at 'Basecamp Adventures', an indoor rock climbing centre, has also
proven a winner with our girls and is a great way to keep the children entertained on a wet day.
There are some great looking sport climbing walls in the centre as well that we are keen to try
out in the future! Our girls has also loved swimming and playing around in the warm indoor pools
at the 'Wanaka Recreation Centre'.
'Wanaka Recreation Centre'.
'Clip n' Climb' at 'Basecamp Adventures'.
Queenstown is very close to two ski fields, has great restaurants and cafes, and so many
activities, making it a great spot to visit on a ski holiday!
Lakefront, 'Lake Wakatipu', Queenstown.
Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown.
Queenstown is the perfect base from which to ski the Coronet Peak and Remarkables ski resorts,
only 16km and 24km drive respectively. Queenstown is also relatively close to the two great ski
mountains of Cardrona (58km) and Treble cone (90km), and the beautiful town of Wanaka (67km).
There are many accommodation options when staying in Queenstown. We try to find accommodation
within walking distance to the town centre, as it is a convenient way to explore the town,
beachfront, parks, restaurants and shops, without having to worry about parking.
Playground at the lake front.
The beautiful 'Queenstown Gardens'.
So many activities to do in Queenstown! We took ride on the 'Skyline Queenstown Gondola' for a
great view over Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu, but more importantly for the girls, some mucking
around on the luges! The girls loved the luges, our youngest was a bit little to have a go
herself but was allowed to sit on the front of ours.
Chairlift to the top of the luge.
Bottom of the luge.
Central Queenstown is a great spot to explore, shop and eat! It seems like there is always
something happening. Just a short walk from the center of town, through the beautiful
'Queenstown Gardens', is the 'Queenstown Ice Arena', where a couple of hours can be spent
Create your own ice-cream at 'Patagonia'!
Watching a street performance.
Ice-skating at the 'Queenstown Ice Arena'.
When the girls are keen to chill-out we go for a walk around 'Lake Wakatipu', explore the
town, or to the great local library for a catchup on some reading.