Cardrona is New Zealand’s “Park Central” says our Freestyle Editor Nic Stevens. He knows, after training here most of the past couple of winters. The free ski world’s attention will be focused on Cardrona next week for the inaugural Monster Energy Jossi Wells Invitational Big Air event, so it’s a good time to check out why Cardrona rules on the park and pipe front.
The Southern Hemisphere is more normally associated with beers, cricket and rugby, not a terrain park/super pipe combo that’s World class.
Cardrona Alpine Resort has the NZ market cornered, with the equivalent of a theme park dropped on the resort, in the form of a baffling array of man made mountains culminating in a series of jumps, rails, berms and half pipes.
As Slopestyle Skiing is now an Olympic sport, and with the next Olympics only two years away, many of the world’s best choose Cardrona’s parks as their training destination of choice. If they fly from all corners of the world, there must be something good tucked away here, right?
Right. Suited for all ages and abilities, from learning how to clip into skis, to leading into rails, all the way up to Olympic athletes dialing in their dream competition runs, Cardrona truly has it all in terms of Park and Pipe.
Including fast lift laps, around 4 minutes 30 seconds without stoppages. This, multiplied by low crowds, allows for the hottest of laps. You would be extremely unlucky to find yourself waiting at the top of the park for anything, so leg burn is guaranteed! The run itself that holds the three main parks is extremely fun, as it snakes through the valley down to the White Star high speed quad lift.
Big Bucks, which is one of the very few places world wide which has a World Cup level slopestyle course up all season, with generally 2 sets of rail options into a large gap/bonk, or the iconic Cardrona cannon feature, leads into a set of three beautifully made jumps, progressing from around 55 to 70ft that allow any tricks to be thrown. So training full comp runs or having a great time linking flowing tricks are all options.
Cardrona having one of the world’s best Park Builders is the icing on the cake. Tom Campbell, all round legend, puts out some of the highest quality features which are sure to get your taste buds tingling.
Earth works and prebuilt dirt landings are another very large adjunct to the quality of Cardrona, meaning it requires little to no snow before the big line of jumps is up for a quick, easy World Cup Slopestyle Course.
Stagg Lane and Antlers Alley is where the magic happens, having some of the most creative and innovative features, which are consistently changed so nothing gets stale by the highly motivated Park Staff, which are two words that do not normally go together. The crew are receptive and easy to talk to.
Having Antlers Alley, the most enjoyable 3 jump line in the Southern Hemisphere, is the feather in the cap of Cardrona, making it a 6 jump line per lap while still being able to get your rail fix at the bottom of Antlers Alley. Fun for all levels, and progressive in size. This coupled with Lil Bucks and Gravity X means you’re sure to find any jump size required.
One of the largest assets, quite literally, sitting at Cardrona is the 22ft Super Pipe beside the Wells Plateau poma. This is one of the very few true 22ft Olympic Super Pipes, beautifully shaped by Cardrona Pipe builders. This self-perpetuating pipe is fed by its own poma, which is to my knowledge one of the only scenarios of pipe and poma combos in the world. This world class training facility brings athletes from around the planet to come and see it in all its glory, and to ride the Pipe. Next to the Super Pipe is the International Half Pipe, measuring at 12 to 14ft, which allows for every avenue of fun and progression to be found. Nestled in behind the Olympic Super Pipe is the Big Air jump, and it lives up to its name, measuring in at 85ft+ depending on how it’s built. Generally open mid-season, however not for the faint hearted, it’s big enough for any tricks to be performed. However I would not recommend this to the general public as it’s not on the friendly side of jump sizing.
With Cardrona being a natural amphitheatre, it’s great viewing for the public too, as good an armchairlift view of the action as you’ll get anywhere.
So whatever you’re looking for in Park and Pipe you’ll be able to find it, and much more at Cardrona – like the Butter Chicken Pie from the café.