If you’ve ever considered doing ‘back-to-back’ winters, heading down south to New Zealand is well worth your time. Whilst there’s nothing on the scale of European or North American ski resorts, instead you’ll find tiny ski fields packed with full face grins and charm. However, if you’re after somewhere to keep you occupied for the whole two-to-three month season or even a lift you can sit on, your options start boiling down a bit, with the most popular these days seeming to be Cardrona.
- Highest Point: 1860m
- Descent: 600m
- No. lifts: 6
The first thing you’ll notice is that it sits a way out of the nearest town, Wanaka, so you’re looking at about a 45-minute drive, including some dirt-covered switchbacks that definitely require snow chains when the white stuff is pumping! If you don’t have a vehicle then there’s a semi-official hitchhiking spot on the way out of town and the friendly locals are sure to pick you up eventually.
The scenery here is out of this world, like the Scottish Highlands on acid, so make sure you drink it in for as long as possible if you’re lucky enough to get there. Also worth remembering: Lake Wanaka and the nearby mountains often have polarised microclimates, so waking up to a grey morning can mean a banger day on the hill!
The Parks – 4/5
The opposite side of the valley used to play host to the now defunct Snow Park NZ, but since then Cardrona has made huge pushes into creating and maintaining some of the best parks in the Southern Hemisphere. There’s everything from the Lil’ Bucks baby park – this year accessible from the brand new combined chair and gondola lift – to Antler’s Alley, Stag Lane and Big Bucks which feature a progressive range of kickers and jibs, all sitting under the Whitestar Express. The big boy jumps really are big these days, and you’ll be sure to see some of the world’s best hucking doubles and the like whilst you’re on your way through.
Cardrona has not one but two halfpipes on offer – an old-school 12-14 footer and an Olympic-sized behemoth sitting at 22 feet high and 160m long. They sit alongside each other, and both are maintained by legendary pipe shaper John Melville, the guy that invented the pipe dragon and shapes the actual Olympic stunt ditches (just don’t mention Sochi). Pretty good then.
“Both halfpipes are maintained by legendary shaper John Melville – the guy that invented the pipe dragon”