Businesses in Cardrona Valley ready for winter

3 minutes read
Posted 29 June, 2023
Cardona Hotel staffs up to cater to the afternoon rush during the ski season copy

Cardona Hotel staffs up to cater to the afternoon rush during the ski season

The picturesque quaint village of Cardrona is just 20 minutes from Wānaka or 40 minutes from Queenstown, and is more than just a drive-by. A prime location for all your pre- and post-mountain fun, it’s made up of some fabulous businesses, many of which report a change in the vibe around the seasons. While the general consensus seems to be that the summer months are actually busier, it’s certainly a lot of fun in the winter.

The Cardrona Hotel is synonymous with the area and a popular tourist destination year-round. First established in 1863, it’s one of Aotearoa’s oldest hotels and one of only two buildings that remain from the gold rush era. You’ll find it bursting with apres-skiers most winter afternoons. Cade Thornton is one of the hotel’s owners and says that their preparation for the winter is pretty mega and includes increasing staff numbers by 10-15 for the season.

“Unlike the ski field, the hotel’s there all year,” says Thornton. “We come off a huge summer season, which now is bigger than our winter seasons – which are still incredibly huge. I love the winter because it’s just such a positive happy time. I think in the summer, everyone’s in the region to experience everything, whereas in the winter they really only come to ski or snowboard and so everyone shares a common interest. It gets a lot more people talking and the staff buzzed. We just have to gear up for huge volumes at certain times of the day.”

The stunning Cardrona Distillery was thought up by Desiree Reid in May of 2013 and the build was backed by an overwhelming amount of local support. The site produces single-malt spirits from scratch using their bespoke equipment. The Cellar Door serves up delicious food and the hours don’t change with the seasons; open seven-days-a-week from 9.30am until 7pm. In the mornings Reid says they see people popping by to grab a bacon butty and hot drink, while in the afternoons their apres cocktails are a popular option.

“Summer and winter are as busy – I’m not sure if it’s the same crowd coming to experience Cardrona and all its glory in the four seasons or if the crowd is different,” says Reid. “We enjoy the local and New Zealand guests, but we’re also looking forward to welcoming our Australian neighbours back over and beyond. It seems that with the borders being well-and-truly open, we’re having guests from further afield again, which is great.”

Cardrona Valley General Store serves as a saving-grace for locals and visitors alike. Since its opening in 2017, those living and staying in the area no longer have to drive the 25+kms to the nearest shop for essential items. The store, which is owned by Margaret Bowes, showcases local goods and produce. Bowes says while winter is great, summer is greater for her business, but she does see big rushes of people in the afternoons.

“I’m busier in the afternoons with people coming off the mountain – the mornings, too, but a lot of people want to get up the mountain quickly and they don’t want to stop, they just want to get going,” says Bowes. “From about three o’clock I start seeing a lot of skiers coming in, because the village fills up with people staying here. There are a lot of people coming in who want to pick up bits to take home. There’s definitely an excitement around the skiing with people coming off the mountain all enthusiastic. We’re just across the road from the pub, so we get that really fun apres ski vibe going on. It’s a fun time.”

Cardrona Valley has certainly quietened down since the boom of the Otago gold rush, but business owners have been kept busy. With the shoulder season for the region appearing to get shorter each year, and borders fully open again, it’s shaping up to be a bumper winter for the village.

Distillery ready for Winter


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