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Cardrona's Trail Progression

August 8, 2019
Russ Kauff
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Russ Kauff

As Cardrona skiers and riders, we love our maunga, our mountain. As instructors, we know our mountain’s every nook and cranny and it gives us a huge advantage: we can bring all our guests to just the right spot, at the right time, at the right pace. Cardrona’s particular beauty for us as instructors is that it allows us to help our guests of all levels achieve their ski and snowboard ambitions progressively, comfortably, and with tonnes of fun along the way!

Obviously, our insider’s knowledge is an important part of setting up our students for success, but it’s also just the advantage of being here every day. For visitors finding their way around our mountain on their own, just a little bit of know-how can go a long way towards getting access to the goods and making your day better.

Our pro tip: Check out our trail map online, pick up a free copy from the Ticket Office, or spot the big trail map signs around the mountains so you can see which trails Russ is talking about!!


Once you've conquered the Beginners' Area (turning and stopping comfortably, controlling your speed), it's time to try out the McDougall's Chondola! We recommend starting with a gondola cabin as your first mode of transportation, then moving across to the chair once you're comfortable.


Immediately after exiting the gondola cabin or taking a left after unloading your chair, keep your eyes open on the right for a big gap in the fence. Through that gap, the gentle, sweeping switchback is called Bridget’s Way, and it’s the least intimidating place to start your day of sliding. The biggest risk of starting on Bridget’s Way is that the view of the Southern Alps as you round the corner will knock you out of your boots! Ease your way along after having your breath taken away by the view, and you’ll enter Weston’s Trail briefly with more confidence. Stay straight onto Skyline (Weston’s turns left, Skyline continues straight down the ridgeline), a broad, long, and gentle run with unobstructed views of Lake Wakatipu and Queenstown in the distance on the right. As Skyline slowly winds left, you’ll get a falcon’s eye view of the Crown Range before coming into sight of the Main Basin just to put it all in perspective. Once you’re comfortable on Skyline with its priceless perspective, it’s time to get some vertical on Weston’s Trail.

Check out those views from Skyline!!


Now that you’ve got your legs under you a bit, head straight down Weston’s Trail from the McDougall’s top station for a little bit more pitch. It’s plenty wide enough to practise controlling your speed with the shape of your turns. The run turns left ninety degrees at the junction with Skyline, just before the McDougall’s Chondola comes into view ahead. Just before the Chondola lift line, there’s a bit of a flat spot before Weston’s turns right and gets steeper as it becomes Footrot Flats to head back towards the Cardrona Base area. This spot, at the corner and just before the run steepens, is a terrific place to get a sense of how your skills will hold up in other parts of the mountain – it’s a terrific place to grow your confidence. Stay far left, next to the entrance to the Lil’ Bucks terrain park, so the transition onto Footrot Flats is gentler and an unintimidating place to incrementally move along to the next level of terrain. Stay to the right side for more challenge – the further right you get, the more abrupt the transition and the steeper the fallaway.

These kids and their instructor have just come down from Weston's into Footrot Flats!

Once you can keep your cool, comfortably control your speed by turning, and have a blast on that far right side, it’s time to take Shaun’s Way to the Captain’s Basin and the trail called A Real Journey.



Captain’s is all about pizza, and by that we mean a slice of Neapolitan-style, mouth-wateringly delicious, cheesy goodness, not the wedge we use as beginning skiers. Once you’re in Captain’s Basin, my ski instructor mantra is “pizza is for eating!”. From the McDougall’s top station, loop around as though you’re heading towards to top station of the Whitestar Express, and continue past it on the uphill side. As you slide past Whitestar, Shaun’s Way comes into view; it’s the long road of a run that hugs the mountainside until it winds out of view. As you head along Shaun’s Way, don’t miss the amazing views on your right down the mountain and across the Cardrona Valley. As Shaun’s Way turns left, the whole of the Captain’s Basin comes into view and the expansiveness of the terrain there becomes clear. You can also see the Captain’s Café, home of our famous pizza! And yes, I think it’s okay to drink hot chocolate with polenta fries, so long as you earned it!


The end of Shaun’s Way places you squarely in the middle of the Captain’s Basin but keep heading across, underneath and past the Captain’s Express to the top of A Real Journey. A Real Journey is a short slice of a run, and one look at it and you’ll know why that transition from Weston’s to Footrot Flats was so perfect; A Real Journey is nearly exactly the same pitch, only shorter. A few turns down the slightly steeper section and you can ease your way right onto the bottom part of a run called Paradise, and then merge onto the bottom part of Highway 89 and on to the café or the lift below.

The bottom of Highway 89, with Captain's Café on the left.


If you still aren’t so sure about whether polenta fries and hot chocolate are a good pairing, ride the Captain’s Express, take a right off the top of it, keep heading left, past Highway 89 and onto Paradise. When the winds up here blow our snow around, it piles up and comes to rest in Paradise before it’s groomed to perfection. After rolling gently after it splits left from Highway 89, Paradise bowls up on its sides like a giant, gentle halfpipe filled with powdery goodness. It’s just plain fun to ski in there, for intermediates and experts alike. Once A Real Journey comes into view on the right, you’ll be on familiar ground and ready for the café, if not a bit more exploration!


Much more. Cardrona is big enough and has enough variety that the decision of where to go and what to do next can be different for every skier and rider. It is true that time spent with one of our instructors is the best way to get to know our mountain, but because our entire resort staff loves skiing and riding every chance they get, any one of us will enthusiastically give you our take on where to go next. To know our maunga is to love her, and we’re all happy to help!

There are so many spots around the mountain to challenge yourself... and score some amazing turns!

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About the Author

Russ Kauff

Russ is one of our most experienced ski instructors at Cardrona, & he's handy with the written word too!

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