The key reason for our trip south this year was for skiing. I’ve been trying to learn to ski since not long after Mark and I met, with little to no success. Having a pre-schooler hasn’t helped when we’ve based ourselves at our club ski lodge on Whakapapa, because someone still had to be looking after the kid, so Mark got first dibs on skiing since he already enjoyed it, whereas I was slightly terrified of it.
Given we are aiming to spend a chunk of time skiing in Canada in a few years (potentially a Christmas ski holiday), this needed to be resolved. I needed to learn to ski.
Friends had raved about Cardrona, they go every year, so we decided to emulate them and try it for ourselves.
Lesson packages and lift passes are similarly priced between Cardrona and Ruapehu, with Cardrona being ever so slightly cheaper across the board. But what sets Cardrona apart is how family-friendly it is.
I have two words for you: SKI KINDY.
(and another pair for those who have older kids: KIDS CLUB).
Enrolment in Ski Kindy comes with three levels of options: Straight daycare, daycare plus either a morning or afternoon private lesson, and daycare with morning and afternoon group lessons. It caters for all ages from 3mo, and over 2’s can have ski lessons. Awesomely, Ski Kindy is now located in the same building as the kids club, which makes drop off and pickup easy for parents with kids of different ages. All gear is included at Ski Kindy if you opt for lessons – skis or board, boots, helmet, goggles, mittens. You’ll want to provide your own jacket and pants (since you’ll need those to get from the car anyway). We gather than in Kids Club, fitting for those hiring is also done within their rooms – no need to take your kid through the crush of the hire room.
Gear hire for adults is not the smoothest process, but that appears to be normal – there is no queue management, and its not always clear where you should be waiting. That said, the staff were friendly and competent, and when I went back mid-day on day 2 with pain in my calves, they were super helpful with changing out what I had for what I needed. When I came back on day 3 requesting a specific pair of boots, they hunted them out for me.
Lessons. Wow. The instructors I got were awesome. Friendly, patient, encouraging. Starting lessons on an all-but flat area was fantastic. We learned how to stand on skis without having to learn to stop first. Moving on to the learners slope, it was far flatter than I experienced on Whakapapa or Turoa. The learner carpets were fantastic.
My learner package included 3 days of gear hire and four lessons – two hours each, with two on day one and one each on days two and three. I lucked out and got the same instructor for lessons one through three, but got someone else for lesson four, and although he was lovely, some of his techniques confused my brain and I feel I lost some technique.
Once they are confident of your skill, you’ll be taken up the chairlift for a run down skyline. Awesomely, if you’ve skied before, you can still have lessons, at a range of skill levels all the way up to introduction to the terrain park, on a standard lesson voucher. We’re definitely planning on sending Mark on a lesson next time, just for fun.
Mark had an awesome time over his three days. He got over every trail that wasn’t black (Cardrona has four levels – beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert), rode every chairlift multiple times, and did more vertical meters in a day than I did over 3.
Overall, the skifield also had an awesomely cruisy, small-town vibe. Having competitors from the Norwegian Winter Games team riding the learner carpet was such an odd experience, but awesome. The halfpipe being in view from the main base area means you get some incredible shows while waiting in line / riding the chondola. You can leave your bags pretty much anywhere in the base area (take your valuables, leave your walking shoes and lunch) without concern. Riding the chondola to the top with your kids is awesome, there’s even a bar / coffee shop at the top to chill out in.
If you’ve never done Cardrona, you are missing out. And that’s coming from me, who nearly threw up with nerves at the top of Skyline – the first run available to people once they are out of the learners slope.