Cardrona: Future-proofing its Maunga and its whanau

The tourism sector is notoriously fickle and when your business relies on a single season it can be near impossible to plan and grow. Case in point: the snow sector. Traditionally, snow operations have had around 100 days a year to recruit staff, get the business up and running and make money before closing shop until the following winter.

Cardrona Alpine Resort, however, is becoming the exception to this rule. The Qualmark Gold-endorsed license holder has changed its business model to be a year-round operation with permanent staff on board, an inspirational culture, and clear performance goals.

“We aim to be open all the time. We can deliver a great product with or without snow. Summer is a really interesting time here, and next year we’re opening the mountain for snow sports from 1 June to 27 October – almost five months of skiing and snowboarding,” says Cardrona’s General Manager Bridget Legnavsky.

Cardrona is a massive operation with around 700 staff on board at the height of winter and 20 different business units. Despite its size, Cardrona has established a cohesive culture, assisted by its inclusive and interactive training programme. Prior to the start of its winter season, all Cardrona staff attend a whole day workshop focused on its culture and health and safety before teams go on to complete four-five days of skills-based training in their respective areas of work.

“We’ve noticed a big change in our business performance since we changed our model and established a permanent staff base. With a core of 100-plus people we now have very high performance all year round. The core staff are champions of Cardona and help support and build-up seasonal staff culture. Connection is our biggest pillar and it’s a concept that the whanau came up during our training process. We’re all connected to each other – staff, guests, suppliers. What’s interesting is that our staff tend to refer to Cardona as ‘home’ and see value in their roles. They look forward to coming to work and truly look after each other and the land. We are the kaitiakitanga of Cardrona, the guardians. We’re now evolving further to establish the Cardrona Foundation that will extend our staff’s involvement and sense of culture to the wider community.”

Cardrona joined Qualmark last year, a move that Bridget says has been an invaluable part of its evolution.

“What I love about Qualmark is that you get to prove to yourself that you’re doing the right thing. In collecting the evidence for the assessments, you can see where the business is going well, where there are gaps, and how you can improve. You evolve through the process. It’s an incredibly useful exercise, and valuable.”

Watch Cardrona’s “Our Future” video