Cardrona Alpine Resort

Cardrona Alpine Resort is an alpine resort in New Zealand's South Island. The ski field ranges from 1,260m to 1,860m. The distribution of slopes is 25% beginner, 25% intermediate, 30% advanced and 20% expert.[1] There are 2 detachable quad chairlifts,[2] 2 fixed-grip quad chairlifts, 1 detachable express chondola, 3 surface conveyor learner lifts and 1 platter lift to service the halfpipes and big air jump. Snowmaking supplements the 2.9m average annual snowfall. Freestyle Snowboarding and skiing are well catered for with 2 half pipes and 4 terrain parks. There is also a "high performance centre" which trains more advanced skiers and snowboarders. Families with infants and young children can use child care facilities provided in the Cardrona Nursery and Ski Kindy.

Cardrona Alpine Resort
LocationOtago South Island, New Zealand
Nearest major cityWanaka, New Zealand
Vertical600 m
Top elevation1894 m
Base elevation1670 m
Skiable area410 hectares
Lift system7 total; 5 chairlifts (two fixed quads, two detachable quads, one detachable chondola), 2 magic learner, 1 platter
Lift capacity10200/hour
Terrain parks7 (2 Half Pipes, 4 parks and 1 gravity cross course)
Snowfall2.7 m (8.9 ft)
Night skiingNo

The resort is located near Wanaka, 5.5 hours drive from Christchurch, 3 hours drive from Dunedin and 50 minutes drive from Queenstown. On-mountain accommodation is provided in the form of 15 self-contained apartments.

There was a tradition, that at the bottom of the mountain, women leave their old bra on the Cardrona Bra Fence before leaving town.[3]

Cardrona Alpine Resort was founded by Cardrona Valley locals John and Mary Lee. It opened for its first winter in 1980.[4] There was so much snow in the first winter that the mountain was only able to open for 3 weeks, around many days of clearing the resort road with a bulldozer. John Lee was not a skier, so built Cardrona's base area in the middle of the resort at 1670m – something very rare for a ski field.

The resort was bought by the Vealls of Melbourne in 1989. This was also the year Cardrona built New Zealand's first international halfpipe.[5]

The old Captain's chairlift (replaced by the Captain's Express) was reinstalled, as the Valley View Quad, below the existing Whitestar Express before the 2010 winter. The main purpose of this lift was to allow construction of a competition grade downhill run, by increasing the lifted vertical available to the resort. General trails are available though. Due to insufficient snow cover this lift did not open for the 2010 season. Stage 2 of the plan was set for the 2011 winter and added snowmaking. The lift has opened every winter from 2011 onwards.

In 2013, New Zealand company Real Journeys purchased Cardrona Alpine Resort.[5] Along with Real Journeys, Cardrona is now part of the privately-owned Wayfare Group.[6]

In December 2019, the Commerce Commission gave approval for Cardrona to purchase Treble Cone Investments Ltd.[7] In early 2020, Cardrona reported that they were working towards merging the operations and marketing of the two resorts.[8]


In 2016, the McDougall's Quad Chairlift was removed and replaced with a new high speed "Chondala" lift with both 8 person gondolas and 6 person chairs, improving summer operations at the resort. In 2019 they announced that the old McDougall's quad would be installed below the captain's basin of the ski field, however, this was cancelled, as native lizards were found in the area and would have been disturbed by the development.[9] As of 2021 the lift was relocated to the Soho Ski Area and named Willow's Quad, after the cult classic film Willow, that was filmed in the area in the 1980's. The lift opens up 65 hectares of new, skiable terrain and will be open for the 2021 winter season.[10]

Lift Name Type Ride Time Capacity and Speed Starting Elevation Vertical Rise
McDougall's Express Chondala Combined Chairlift and gondala 3 min 2550 people per hour, 5 m/s 1642m 178m
Whitestar Express Quad Detachable quad chairlift 5 min 2400 people per hour, 5 m/s 1480m 330m[11]
Captain's Express Quad Detachable quad chairlift 4 min 2400 people per hour, 5 m/s 1598m 262m
Valley View Quad Fixed grip quad chairlift 8 min 2000 people per hour, 2.1 m/s 1260m 280m
Captains Basin view looking toward chairlift


  1. "Mountain Info - Winter Stats & Facts | Cardrona NZ". Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  2. "Cardrona Alpine Resort". Latitude. Retrieved 3 April 2020.
  3. Lovelock, Brent. "Tourist-Created Attractions: The Emergence of a Unique Form of Tourist Attraction in Southern New Zealand". Tourism Geographies: 410–433 via Taylor and Francis Online.
  4. Cook, Marjorie (16 October 2011). "Retirement time for hearty, happy Lees". Otago Daily Times Online News. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  5. Editor, Online (16 November 2013). "Cardrona back in NZ ownership". Otago Daily Times Online News. Retrieved 23 April 2020.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  6. "Wayfare". Tourism Export Council of New Zealand. Archived from the original on 26 December 2020.
  7. "Sale of Treble Cone Investments to Cardrona Alpine Resort approved". Otago Daily Times. 16 December 2019. Archived from the original on 15 May 2021.
  8. "Treble Cone 2020 Update". SnowNZ. Archived from the original on 27 December 2020.
  9. Hayward, Michael (7 January 2020). "Rare lizards scupper Cardrona skifield's chairlift plans". Stuff. Archived from the original on 29 December 2020.
  10. "Introducing: Willows Basin | Content Hub | Cardrona NZ". Retrieved 14 May 2021.
  11. "Ski lifts Cardrona".