Come ski with us
‘Haere mai - welcome to all our Aussie friends and rellies,’ says Justine Tyerman as the first snows of 2021 dust mountain tops around Wanaka in New Zealand’s South Island. ‘Now the trans-Tasman bubble is open, come ski with us!’
Crack open the bubbly . . . or the beer! This coming winter season, with the long-awaited trans-Tasman bubble now open, we are welcoming our Aussie rellies and mates back to our ski resorts. It will be a time of great celebration!
Our Sydney-based family will finally be able to join us so we’re planning a family reunion at beautiful Buchanan Lodge on the shores of Lake Wanaka.
We’re all keen skiers so depending on the weather and snow conditions, we’ll head for either Cardrona or Treble Cone which are both now covered by a single lift pass.
Justine on Cardrona's southern boundary with Willow’s Basin in the background. Picture by Chris Tyerman
Cardrona purchased Treble Cone Ski Area in January, 2020, so the winter of 2021 marks the second season that Treble Cone has operated under the banner of Cardrona Alpine Resorts.
Prior to this, Cardrona, 34 kilometres south-west of Wanaka up the Cardrona Valley, and Treble Cone, 23 kilometres north-west of Wanaka on the Mt Aspiring Road, had been arch rivals. Cardrona marketed itself as a friendly, fun field accessible to all levels of skiers and snowboarders while Treble Cone was largely the exclusive domain of experts.
Cardrona’s 400 hectares are characterised by cruisy, open, undulating, perfectly-groomed pistes, gentle basins and world-class terrain parks. The field is classified as 25 percent beginner, 25 percent intermediate, 30 percent advanced and 20 percent expert.
Treble Cone’s 550-hectare field is famous for its long, steep, uncrowded runs, natural half pipes and chutes, legendary off-piste terrain and spectacular panoramas over Lake Wanaka and the Southern Alps. The resort is classified as 10 percent beginner, 45 percent intermediate and 45 percent advanced.
In the words of Cardrona Alpine Resorts’ General Manager, Bridget Legnavsky, the pair are a perfect match.
‘Cardrona and Treble Cone are the yin to each other's yang . . .’
Cardrona is my preferred mountain. It’s more mellow than Treble Cone - I’ve skied at ‘Cardy’ for 40 years and know it so well, I can find my way down in a complete whiteout. I’ll leave Treble Cone’s steep, challenging pistes to my daredevil sons-in-law.
Besides, the winter of 2021 brings a real game-changer at Cardrona – there’s thrilling new terrain to explore this season thanks to the installation of the Willow’s Basin chairlift, the first of the Soho Basin developments on Cardrona’s southern boundary.
Soho Basin and the Southern Alps from the top of Cardrona. Picture by Justine Tyerman
Real Journeys, who own Cardrona Alpine Resorts, bought the ski field rights to the privately-owned Soho Basin in July 2018. When development is complete, the resort will effectively more than double in size to over 900 hectares of skiable terrain, creating New Zealand’s largest alpine resort.
I’ve long drooled over Soho’s wide, pristine slopes which overlook the Wakatipu Basin and the Southern Alps - itching to plunge off the edge of the Skyline cat track and carve lines in the virgin snow. The high altitude, southerly-facing aspect of the Soho field means it receives and retains a great cover of early and late snow. So this winter, skiers and snowboarders will be able to blast their way into virgin territory hitherto accessible only by snowcat.
From this winter, skiers and snowboarders will have access to the wide open slopes and valleys of Willow’s Basin on Cardrona's southern boundary. Picture supplied
Ironically, the Willow’s chairlift – the upcycled, refurbished former McDougall’s Quad that was replaced by the McDougall’s Chondola in 2017 – was originally destined for the Pringles area below Captains Café but the discovery of rare and endangered lizards in the construction zone in 2019 necessitated a radical rethink.
I for one, was ecstatic with the news. While the Pringles lift would have undoubtedly unlocked some seriously-challenging terrain for advanced skiers and snowboarders, for people like me who only get to ski a week a year if I’m lucky, the cruisy, sunny slopes of Willow’s Basin will be absolute perfection. After all, the experts have a whole mountain to themselves at Treble Cone.
Treble Cone is known for its long, steep, uncrowded runs. Treble Cone photo
Looking down into Willow’s, there’s no sign of the eponymous trees which grow so prolifically alongside Lake Wanaka and the Clutha River. Turns out the basin and the new lift were named after the cult classic film, Willow, scenes of which were filmed at Cardrona in the 1980s.
Further lifts are planned for Soho in the future, including a main express chairlift which will link the area to the top of Captain’s Basin. But thanks to the lizards, the Willow’s lift is under construction right now!
And there’s more good news — the Valley View Quad will be back in operation for the 2021 season after being out of action last year due to Covid-19 severely restricting Cardrona’s operational capacity. This lift, combined with the new Willow’s Quad, will increase the resort’s uphill lift capacity by 44 percent compared with last season.
We’re now on the countdown to Cardrona’s opening day sometime in June. The first snow of the season has dusted the mountain tops and Central Otago’s spectacular autumn colours are a riot of scarlet, gold and amber.
Cardrona has cruisy, open, undulating, perfectly-groomed pistes, mellow basins and world-class terrain parks. Cardrona Alpine Resorts photo
So make sure to get your Earlybird multi-day pass before April 30 when the sale ends. Apart from saving money, having a multi-day pass (or even better, a season pass) allows you to avoid ticket office queues at Cardrona’s base facilities because you can park further down the road in the Valley View Quad car park or sneak into a small park just above the bottom of the Whitestar lift.
It also shaves valuable minutes off the drive up the mountain . . . so you can beat the Aussies to the powder!
* For more information go to: Cardrona Alpine Resorts
* Stay at Buchanan Lodge overlooking Lake Wanaka
* Hire a JUCY Rental vehicle from the depot near Queenstown Airport.
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