Your hectic schedule has landed you in Queenstown with just one free day, so you’ve decided to ride at Cardrona Alpine Resort. Great choice but why are you working so hard?? Anyway, Cardrona is one of our favourite places to ride!
With Cardrona being one of the largest ski areas in New Zealand (with expansion plans for 2019 & 2020/2021), trying to ride it all in one day is a tough task. Efficient use of time comes down to planning, so here’s a guide to maximising your day at Cardrona Alpine Resort - we’ve included a handy summary at the bottom.
If we had just one day to ride Cardrona, here’s what our day would look like
Pre-purchase your ticket in Queenstown (39 Camp St) or Wanaka (20 Helwick St). Having a ticket on-hand will save you lining up at the ticket office once you arrive on the mountain. It also allows you to park and jump on the lift at Valley View (there are no ticket sales at Valley View).
Why Valley View? It’s about 4kms from the top, saving you an 8-10 min drive. If you arrive by 8:15am, you’ll get a parking spot very close to the lift. If you’re a little earlier, get your caffeine fix at the Little Meg Café, right next to the lift. If you’re driving from central Queenstown to Valley View, give yourself 1hr 10 mins. From Wanaka, it’s about 35 mins.
Lifts open at 8:30am. You want the first chair, right? So get in line around 8:20-8:25am, earlier on powder days.
N.B. Assumptions - a non-powder day and intermediate to advanced riding skills. If you were lucky enough to time it that your only day at Cardrona was a powder day (by the way, go buy yourself a Lotto ticket), jump to the bottom of this article to see what a powder day would look like.
Your Day of Riding Begins at Cardrona!
You’ve made the first chair and it’s about a 5 min ride to the top of Valley View. By 8:35am, you’re pulling your first turns. As warm up, drop into Goldrush, a nice blue run to get you into gear. Jump back on the Valley View Quad, and then hit Tail Race – a bit steeper, quicker and few rollers, meaning by the time you’re back to the Valley View Quad, your heart should be pumping and you’ll be nicely dialled in.
Head back up Valley View and drop over to the Whitestar Express Quad. Drop Racecourse (a wide-open blue run), cutting in at the bottom between the parks of Big Buck and Antler’s Alley, to ride the bottom of Upper Goldrush / Sluice Box. There are two rollers here under the lift line which are a lot of fun at speed – just don’t mess up with the audience overhead! Head back down to Whitestar.
Time to get a bit steeper, head looker’s right off the top of Whitestar into Upper Goldrush (blue), the first part of Ridge Rider (red) and then into Last Shot Bowl (black). Very nice on a packed-powder day! Jump back on Whitestar.
Let’s head backside, over to Captain’s. Once you get off Whitestar, head straight ahead to Shaun’s Way – this will take you all the way over to Captain’s. Hit the little gully under the lift line as you make your way down to the Captain’s Express Quad.
Now it’s time to get into carving nirvana – lay some big ones out on Highway 89. It might only be blue but it’s super wide and we’ve had some awesome times on this run, riding an edge from one side of the run to the other. I think you need to do this a few times…
Once you’ve had your fill of carving (is that even possible?), check out Paradise and Gin & Raspberry for some gully / speed runs. Some nice little drops and side hit action to be had!
Depending on how you are feeling at this stage, it just might be time for a coffee break – head into Captain’s Café and take in the valley views or scope out your next runs while replenishing your caffeine levels.
With caffeine on board, it’s time for a speed run. Head up Captain’s chair, take the cat track, Over Run, back towards Whitestar. Just before getting to the top of the Whitestar chair, take a hard left back into Shaun’s Way. About half way along the ‘Way, drop into Bowling Alley. See how game you are on this red run – let it rip. It will lead into another red run, Powder Keg – good steeps here too. The runs will lead onto the cat track, Comeback Trail, and ride this all the way back to the base of Whitestar. If you’re not buzzing after that little effort, check your pulse as you might be dead.
Once you unload Whitestar, let the heart recover a bit and head into Arcadia Basin > Swaggerman, ending up back at the Captain’s chair. Now time for some sightseeing and probably our most favourite spot to take some happy snaps – Queenstown Return. When you get off the Captain’s chair go right and then immediately hard left – it is clearly signposted, so you shouldn’t miss it. Just around the corner be ready for some sensational views overlooking Soho Basin and be sure to cast your eyes all the way to Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu. You’ll probably get RSI in your index finger from all the photos being taken. While you’re at it, dream a little too – Soho Basin will become part of Cardrona in the next couple of years and then it’s going to be pretty much impossible to do it all in one day!
Once you exit Queenstown Return onto Westons Run, turn left into the wide green run, Footrot Flats. It opens up to some very nice carving terrain. Unclip your board or skis and grab a cabin on McDougall’s Chondola – half chair / half gondola!
If you like to get some air, warm up on Lil’ Bucks terrain park (pretty much under McDougall’s lift line) – mellow, forgiving jumps and if you’re feeling confident continue on to the 3 medium jumps at the top of Antlers Alley. Quite a bit bigger than Lil’ Bucks but well made and predictable. Unfortunately, I don’t really ride the ‘hard’ features but there are plenty of rails around if you are so inclined. It’s great watching the pros do their stuff on these features in the world-renowned terrain parks. If you’ve done the jump line, riding further on will find you back at the base of Whitestar. Jump back on Whitestar and revisit Racecourse but this time continue all the way over to the Base Area.
Well done, you deserve lunch! Unlike many other NZ ski resorts, you actually have quite a few dining options at Cardrona Alpine Resort. And if you’ve got just one day here, either visit the Noodle Bar or The Mezz. Both are a bit more upmarket and chilled than the other dining options, and also offer a great selection of food.
Refuelled, head back to the Chondola and grab a seat on one of the comfy 6-seater chairs. To get rid of the lunch-legs, try one of the longer runs of the resort – Upper Goldrush > top of Sluice Box > Gun Shot > over the bridge into Goldrush. You’re now back at the base of the Valley View chair so make your way back all the way to the top of Whitestar.
If the International Pipe is open, we always like to do a ride or two through there. Head looker’s left once you unload from Whitestar. The Olympic Pipe is way out of our league but if it’s something that appeals to you, make sure you visit it in the morning as it usually shuts by lunchtime – it has its own platter lift (Wells Platter).
Before the day is done, you probably have time to revisit a few of your favourites. As 4:00pm comes around, and the lifts start to shut, drop into Tail Race for your final run home to the car.
Well done – what a day! You may have just earned yourself a refreshing beverage so visit the iconic Cardrona Hotel on the way back to town. Relive the magic of the day and promise yourself the next time you come back, it’s going to be more than one day. Well, it’s going to have to be with the new Pringles Quad in 2019 and Soho Basin 2020/2021!
What about a Powder Day at Cardrona?
We all know a pow day gives endless options on the mountain but what would we ride at Cardrona if we were graced with the fresh white stuff?
I would hit Creekside first off Valley View and then maybe Prospector. Tearing myself away from Valley View, I’d head over to Whitestar and then ride Ridge Rider or Last Shot Bowl. Back up to the top of Whitestar and if the Arcadia Chutes are open, up the adrenaline and drop into the Arcadia Valley. Carry your momentum off the Chutes into the Valley or you’ll be walking for a while on a pow day! Back on the Comeback Trail to Whitestar and over to Captain’s via Shaun’s Way. I’d leave Shaun’s Way either into Bowling Alley or just over Quarts Ridge to end up at Captain’s chair. Up Captain’s, head towards Gin & Raspberry, staying as high as possible. Follow the ridge past Gin & Raspberry and drop Secret Bowl / Tulips. Back at the bottom of Captain’s, your legs should be jelly by now!
Here’s a summary of your day at Cardrona
Pre-purchase your tickets the day before at the offices in either Queenstown or Wanaka.
Arrive at Valley View carpark no later than 8:15am, earlier on a powder day.
Warm-up on Goldrush (blue) and then progress into Tail Race (red).
Head over to Whitestar and drop Racecourse / Upper Goldrush / Sluice Box (blue).
Steepen it up a bit and ride Upper Goldrush (blue), Ridge Rider (red) and Last Shot Bowl (black).
Time to visit Captain’s and for carving action, ride Highway 89 (blue). Then check out the gullies around Paradise (blue) and for something a little steeper, Gin & Raspberry (red).
Coffee break at Captain’s Café.
Speed run time - Bowling Alley and Powder Keg (both red).
Recovery run - Arcadia Basin into Swaggerman (both blue).
Photo opportunity - Queenstown Return.
Carve your way to the base of McDougall’s Chondola via Footrot Flats (green).
If you are so inclined, do a little park action via Lil’ Bucks (small) and Antler’s Alley (medium).
Down to lunch at either the Noodle Bar or The Mezz.
Post lunch get-back-in-the-groove run, Upper Goldrush (blue) > top of Sluice Box (blue) > Gun Shot (red) > over the bridge into Goldrush (blue).
Test your half pipe skills in the International Pipe - made for mere mortals. For those with advanced skills, check out the Olympic Pipe (which usually shuts by lunchtime).
Revisit your favourite runs and then ride back to the car via Tail Race.
Cardrona – so much fun, a day is nowhere near enough
Spending one day here I’m sure will make you realise you just need to come back! But if you only had one day, I hope our guide helps to make the most of your experience.
Need some more information or have any questions? Or have you spent some time at Cardrona and would like to add something? If so, hit me up below!
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Mick is a lover of speed runs and hitting every feature on the mountain. Ex road bike and motocross racer with plans to dabble in mountain bike racing. Spends a lot of time looking at fast cars and bikes. Jen’s instagram model and selfie camera holder due to long arms. Sometimes an optometrist.