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Sweet Snowfields of Cardrona

Sweet Snowfields of Cardrona

[ Mon, 2010-08-09 13:35 ]
Adaptive Ski Festival: Cardrona, New Zealand
Skitheworldforall stops at the New Zealand Adaptive Ski Festival.

No one can spend a day at this South Island resort without hearing and adopting the popular Kiwi expression of approval/joy/satisfaction: sweet! Especially when you have fresh snow overnight and awake to clear, sun-filled skies. Bluebird days graced the annual Adaptive Ski Festival. I wasn't sure what to expect from my first experience skiing in the Southern Hemisphere.

Cardrona refers to itself as a ski field, as do many other ski resorts in this part of the world. I hadn't given much thought to the difference in terminology until my first sighting of Cardrona very early on Monday morning. Pre-dawn, Leslie Johnston, Adaptive Program Director, drove me up the heavily rutted, frozen mud access road. As we rounded the last steep bend the wide expanse of Cardrona appeared suddenly before us. I couldn't stop myself from stating the very obvious, "there are no trees!"

For those of us used to snaking down tree-lined runs in Colorado or California, Cardrona offers a very different skiing experience. Field is a truly accurate description of the wide-open terrain. Only four chairlifts service the mountain but I felt less limited here in the fields than at many other mountains with larger infrastructure where runs are more narrowly defined.

It is still early in the season and the snow farmers have been hard at work. There is a small amount of snowmaking equipment on the lower slopes, but the locals prefer to truck in the white stuff from the surrounding mountains. This is real snow, just moved from one place to another and it skis that way: fast, smooth, and sweet!

Thirty participants, together with their families, competed and socialized on the hill all day and celebrated and partied all night. The athletes were representatives of a wide variety of disabilities. Mono skies and three trackers raced each other down a tough Giant Slalom course, while tethered or visually impaired snowboarders battled it out on the half pipe.

It was a week of recognition, acceptance, celebration and laughter. For me, it was simply heart opening. Thanks, Cardrona for welcoming me so warmly. Sweet!

Karen Skillen is embarking on a year-long global ski adventure. She will ski in every country where it is logistically possible and safe to do so, raising awareness and funding for adaptive ski programs along the way. To learn more about her mission see her website She’ll be blogging from the road.