Two chairlifts take riders and bikes up into this summertime, mountain-biking playground, scooting down the slopes of a Southern Alps’ ski resort.
Nestled in the Southern Alps between Wanaka and Queenstown, Cardrona Bike Park is home to some of New Zealand’s highest and longest downhill mountain biking trails. This type of terrain used to be the realm of heli-bikers and hardcore, masochistic uphill specialists, but now – thanks to Cardrona Alpine Resort – two ski chairlifts offer summer season access to over 30kms of downhill and cross-country trails. If you’ve heard the saying ‘dirt is the new snow’, this Wanaka mountain biking park is true evidence.
There are 17 trails in all, expertly designed and constructed with something to suit all mountain biking tastes and abilities, and epic views as standard. Real Journey, the park’s longest trail at more than 3kms, is a laidback, sweeping affair, while intermediate-grade Arcadia – one of the park’s hero trails – ups the ante on a winding and speedy descent with some rocky sections thrown in for good measure.
Advanced and expert mountain biking riders are also well served, with five hardcore trails. DTL traverses a technical, rocky ridge, while Dirtstar Downhill is another black-diamond favourite, built for the national downhill champs and designed to test the skills and nerve of all but the gnarliest of bikers.
For riders that think the chairlift is cheating, the aptly named Oxygen Thief XC provides an excellent workout. It’s also possible to ride the 12kms up to the resort from the Cardrona valley floor, but that’s just silly, don’t you think?
During the summer months, the lifts operate from 10am to 4pm, and to 8pm on Fridays, with half-day, multi-day and season passes available. High-spec full-suspension and downhill bikes can be hired at the resort, or at bike shops in Wanaka and Queenstown.
Riders can also up-skill at Cardrona’s Mountain BIking school, and get to and from the park on daily Wanaka and Queenstown shuttles. With on-site apartments, a cafe, and walking and mountain cart trails too, the resort makes a great one-stop-shop for good times.