An insider's guide to Cardrona: A parent's perspective

Cardrona Alpine Resort is widely known as a family friendly mountain. But as a Wanaka local explains, Cardrona is more than just that.

Cardrona Alpine Resort is widely known as a family friendly mountain. It’s not only the wide groomed runs and extensive kids' facilities, but as a Cardrona regular and local parent, Karen Melville Ives explains, there’s more to Cardrona than that.

In my younger days I liked to follow the winters and I did the seasonaire thing in some cool mountain towns, including the iconic ski villages of Aspen and Whistler. Now that I’ve ‘settled down’ and have a couple of energetic kids, I have to say that Cardrona Alpine Resort, just outside of my home town Wanaka, is up there with the best!

You may be thinking, how can a humble ski resort in the far reaches of the Southern Hemisphere compete with the big guns like Whistler Blackcomb and Aspen Snowmass?  Well, let me explain... not only is it the friendliness and family feeling at Cardrona that have me and my family stoked every time we’re there. But there's a whole host of other things.

From the moment we drive into the gates at the bottom of the access road, we’re treated like long lost relatives.  On any given day there is an oversized penguin, fairy or clown, waving us through the gates. When we arrive at the carpark, we’re met by smiling staff who direct us to the next available parking spot and sometimes they even offer to help carry the kids' gear!

The staff who are dressed in t-shirts that declare ‘this is my real job’ or ‘aren’t you glad you called in sick?’ do genuinely look like they love their jobs!  Sometimes we run into Carol, the most famous lady on the mountain (she’s worked there at least 20 years), with her big smile and crazy hair!  We usually head to the Juice and Java bar in the base area for a pick-me-up (which, by the way, serves an espresso good enough to satisfy the most discerning) and catch up with friends.

This is where Cardrona comes into its own compared to its mega-sized counterparts in the Northern Hemisphere.  Not only is the base area a great meeting hub, it’s also really easy to access all the family essentials like lift tickets, childcare facilities, lesson bookings, rental gear, food and of course, coffee - all within a 40m radius. Then it’s only a short walk (or hobble) to the beginner’s area. 

Although my kids are lucky enough to have encountered some Northern Hemisphere trees, powder, terrain parks and chutes, they are in their element at Cardrona. Cardrona has the best terrain park facilities (four parks ranging from beginner to BIG) and one of the only 22ft Olympic halfpipes in the Southern Hemisphere.  We love that the kids can ride the smaller freestyle features while the world’s best skiers and snowboarders (think Stale Sandbech, Mark McMorris and Jossi Wells) hit the big features, as we watch from the chairlift! What a great inspiration for the young ones!

Whether you want to take your family for their first snow adventure, or your kids are ready to ride groomers and powder, or even drop into the chutes and bust spins in the terrain park, Cardrona will keep you all smiling!