Riding in a bubble

Justine Tyerman can’t wait to ride inside a bubble. In the meantime, she reviews the 37-year history of her favourite ski field.

Justine Tyerman can’t wait to ride inside a bubble. In the meantime, she reviews the 37-year history of her favourite ski field.

A pristine day at Cardrona last year.

The ‘Chondola’ is a lift combining eight-person gondola cabins (or bubbles) and six-seater chairs.
The view of the Southern Alps from the top of Cardrona.
The entire history of the ski field is now displayed on the wall of the Captain’s Café makes fascinating reading.
Justine in skiers’ heaven late season last year - fresh snow, sunshine and no crowds.

THE bubble or the chair? I’ll take the bubble please.

Riding to the top of a ski resort in a bubble becomes a reality in New Zealand today.

My favourite ski area, Cardrona Alpine Resort near Wanaka, is set to open their new $10 million Doppelmayr ‘chondola’ today, a lift combining eight-person gondola cabins (or bubbles) and six-seater chairs.

The new McDougall’s Express Chondola will be the first cabin-style lift on a ski area in New Zealand, replacing the existing McDougall’s Quad chairlift. The Chondola will increase the lift’s capacity by 150 percent, with an hourly uplift of 2550 skiers, snowboarders and sightseers.

We’ve skied at Cardrona since its very first season and have witnessed the mountain develop into a world-class resort in the last 37 years.

The entire history of the ski field, now displayed on the wall of the Captain’s Café, makes fascinating reading.

Tall, rangy Cardrona pioneer and founder John Lee is pictured there (above right) building his non-consented ‘high-quality farm road’ back in the late 1970s. The Mt Pisa farmer had a bold vision to one day ‘farm snow’ so he designed the road with a gradual gradient so that buses and cars could manage it with ease. The road today is a testament to John’s methodical planning many decades ago — gentle, wide and well-barriered, I always feel safe on that road.

1980 was the first official ski season at Cardrona but there was so much snow, the new field was open for only 16 days. The following year, they operated for six weeks and purchased a snow groomer.

200-seat café

The double lift was installed in 1983 followed by McDougall’s lift and a 200-seat café in 1985.

In hindsight, it seems bizarre but Cardrona actually banned snowboarding in the late 1980s, a ban that was only lifted in 1989 when one of the managers got hooked on what was then considered a renegade sport after he was persuaded to take a lesson.

The famous blue clock tower was added in 1993 - 1995 along with the Mezz Café, expanded kids’ facilities, apartments and a medical centre.

In the summer of 1999-2000, mountain biking, hiking and rock climbing at Arcadia began, heralding a new era of operations at Cardrona outside the winter months.

An express quad chair replaced the Captain’s Quad in 2008 and the old Captain’s lift was installed as the Valley View lift in 2010.

Real Journeys bought Cardrona in 2013, and the intermediate jumpline opened in 2014 bringing the resort’s freestyle collection to four terrain parks, two half pipes and a big air jump.

Mountain biking, hiking, stargazing

The summer of 2015-2016 was Cardrona’s first full summer of operations including mountain biking, hiking, stargazing and the Southern Hemisphere’s first mountain carts.

Ironically, John was not a skier, but his wife Mary was a passionate advocate of the sport and can claim many of Cardrona’s first descents.

And today, the Chondola opens allowing beginners and sightseers to step into a cabin and ride to the top of the mountain to view the breathtaking mountain panorama from the Cardrona summit.

Cardrona has always been a friendly place with a sense of humour with lifties who dispense sunblock to skiers and boarders on sunny days wearing T-shirts with the words ‘Cardrona — promoting sick days since 1980’.

Born a Southerner, I can’t wait to get back to my turangawaewae . . . and ride in the bubble.

THE bubble or the chair? I’ll take the bubble please.

Riding to the top of a ski resort in a bubble becomes a reality in New Zealand today.

My favourite ski area, Cardrona Alpine Resort near Wanaka, is set to open their new $10 million Doppelmayr ‘chondola’ today, a lift combining eight-person gondola cabins (or bubbles) and six-seater chairs.

The new McDougall’s Express Chondola will be the first cabin-style lift on a ski area in New Zealand, replacing the existing McDougall’s Quad chairlift. The Chondola will increase the lift’s capacity by 150 percent, with an hourly uplift of 2550 skiers, snowboarders and sightseers.

We’ve skied at Cardrona since its very first season and have witnessed the mountain develop into a world-class resort in the last 37 years.

The entire history of the ski field, now displayed on the wall of the Captain’s Café, makes fascinating reading.

Tall, rangy Cardrona pioneer and founder John Lee is pictured there (above right) building his non-consented ‘high-quality farm road’ back in the late 1970s. The Mt Pisa farmer had a bold vision to one day ‘farm snow’ so he designed the road with a gradual gradient so that buses and cars could manage it with ease. The road today is a testament to John’s methodical planning many decades ago — gentle, wide and well-barriered, I always feel safe on that road.

1980 was the first official ski season at Cardrona but there was so much snow, the new field was open for only 16 days. The following year, they operated for six weeks and purchased a snow groomer.

200-seat café

The double lift was installed in 1983 followed by McDougall’s lift and a 200-seat café in 1985.

In hindsight, it seems bizarre but Cardrona actually banned snowboarding in the late 1980s, a ban that was only lifted in 1989 when one of the managers got hooked on what was then considered a renegade sport after he was persuaded to take a lesson.

The famous blue clock tower was added in 1993 - 1995 along with the Mezz Café, expanded kids’ facilities, apartments and a medical centre.

In the summer of 1999-2000, mountain biking, hiking and rock climbing at Arcadia began, heralding a new era of operations at Cardrona outside the winter months.

An express quad chair replaced the Captain’s Quad in 2008 and the old Captain’s lift was installed as the Valley View lift in 2010.

Real Journeys bought Cardrona in 2013, and the intermediate jumpline opened in 2014 bringing the resort’s freestyle collection to four terrain parks, two half pipes and a big air jump.

Mountain biking, hiking, stargazing

The summer of 2015-2016 was Cardrona’s first full summer of operations including mountain biking, hiking, stargazing and the Southern Hemisphere’s first mountain carts.

Ironically, John was not a skier, but his wife Mary was a passionate advocate of the sport and can claim many of Cardrona’s first descents.

And today, the Chondola opens allowing beginners and sightseers to step into a cabin and ride to the top of the mountain to view the breathtaking mountain panorama from the Cardrona summit.

Cardrona has always been a friendly place with a sense of humour with lifties who dispense sunblock to skiers and boarders on sunny days wearing T-shirts with the words ‘Cardrona — promoting sick days since 1980’.

Born a Southerner, I can’t wait to get back to my turangawaewae . . . and ride in the bubble.

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