Less than an hour’s drive from Queenstown in the Crown ranges, you’ll find Cardrona Alpine Resort. It’s our personal favourite ski-field in the area (and not only because they serve the best mulled wine and Mocha coffees)!
With plenty of fresh snow in the day’s leading up we arrived at 9.30am to the top car park already full and were summoned to the second car park. Given we had our entourage of children with us we headed straight to the drop off area at the top where we unloaded with ease and I made my way to the day care centre to drop them off. Our two smallest kids were in the Cardrona Ski Kindy for the day, which is a fully licensed early childhood education centre catering for children aged from three-months to five-years of age. We were greeted with many friendly smiles from the team in there and it looked like chaos had already ensued with many little people very happily busying themselves into play. The atmosphere in there was busy but relaxed and well-organised.
On arrival we were assigned a locker for their bags and had to fill out an 'All About Me' form to inform the team of vital information relating to their care. I was then introduced to the carer in charge of them for the day, and she went through the information again with me on how she can ensure they have a good day, including nap time routines etc. When I turned around to say goodbye to them they’d already made themselves at home surrounded with toys and not at all concerned about my departure.
I then took the five year old upstairs where the ‘big kids’ belong. She spent the day at the Snow Sports School which offers group lessons for kids aged five to 14. She had two two-hour lessons and in-between was fed nice, healthy hot food, watched a movie and did some art & craft. Lucky for her, there weren’t many kids booked in to the afternoon session so she had a one:one lesson which was so beneficial. Her instructor was brilliant, making sure that she continued to laugh her way down the mountain even though her little legs were getting tired. This winter Cardrona have added to their beginner facilities, making it the perfect place for your kids to learn to ski or snowboard. Our girl loved the new space-age, see-through Learner Conveyor tunnel!
From the day care centre it was off to Customer Service to sort our passes. My heart sunk as the queue emerged, lining up out the door. I thought we would be waiting for at least an hour but once again I was pleasantly surprised and the wait wasn’t long at all. Once I’d sorted our passes it was time to hit the slopes. I looked at my watch and was impressed that we’d arrived at 9.30am and after settling the kids in and getting a pass we were on the slopes by 10.30am. Bliss! Finally, this was a chance to get rid of the kids and have some time as a couple, doing what we love best … snowboarding! The sun was shining with a fresh breeze to the face but within an hour the cool breeze had lifted and the mountain lay basking in the sun making for some sweaty afternoon skiing and a feeling of spring like weather yet winter snow conditions. Just perfect!
Cardrona was buzzing and the queues, although lengthy at times, were accommodating the crowds pretty well. The Chondola was impressive and although we didn’t go up in one of the gondola carts it was running like a well-oiled machine.
What I found to be incredibly beneficial for Cardrona in servicing the large number of skiers/boarders was the fact that all lifts are now high speed, an absolute necessity to keep things moving, and they were. The new chair lifts were the business class version of what we were used to. We were lucky enough to be there the week before the Audi Quattro Winter Games so we got to watch some of the Winter Olympic and World Junior Stars having a practice for the 2018 World Championships. It was amazing watching them on the Big Air jump and the half pipe from up above. By 3.30pm we were ready to call it a day. We ventured down to day care to pick up some very tired but happy kids. The three year old had spent time outside in their specially designed snow-play-area and loved it but it wasn’t enough for him. Obviously he wanted to do what his big sister had done so back to the slopes for an hour to give him his own little ski lesson. I don’t think we’ll be able to get away with childcare for him next year, he’ll be hitting the slopes! All in all, an awesome day was had, the kids enjoyed themselves at day care and lessons whilst Mum and Dad soaked up a very fun day on the slopes and we can’t wait for a repeat.
We topped the day off with a drink and dinner at the Cardrona Hotel, the perfect end to a perfect winters day. Being from England, I love a good beer garden, and whilst NZ has SO much to offer, it doesn’t come up to scratch in this area … except for the Cardrona Hotel!
This place is hands down, my favourite pub in NZ. The atmosphere was awesome, the service was quick (despite the ski crowds) and the roaring fire warmed us up nicely. Ourdoors is a beautiful fire to roast marshmallow’s on and lots of space for the kids to run around and work off the last of their energy. The food is supurb too. The kids portions were huge but I guess that’s what you want after a day on the snow!
If you’re visiting in summer, then you don’t need to miss out on the Cardrona experience. Take a gondola ride to the top of the mountain and either bike, hike or mountain-kart down any of their trails to their café at the bottom or down to the Cardrona Hotel for something a little stronger.
To save ourselves some money we hired all the kids snow gear from One Stop Hire, in central Queenstown. They were great to deal with, half the price than hiring up the mountain and you can collect your gear the day before and you have until 9pm to drop it back, so plenty of time for après-ski! It's worth checking out Bookme to see if you can get an even better deal.
We’ve changed car’s recently and no longer have a 4 wheel drive. You can hire chains (and have someone fit them for you) for $30 from in town or at the base of the mountain. We were lucky this particular day and didn’t need them but it’s always worth making sure your hire car comes with them if you’re coming to this part of the world in winter.
Thank you, Cardrona. We will be back!