Cardrona Alpine Resort Employee Charged for Providing Free Ski Passes to Australian Skiers

by Simon Naylor | Published: September 4th, 2023 |  Ski News

An employee at New Zealand's Cardrona Alpine Resort has been charged with providing free ski passes to four Australian tourists, allowing them to ski for multiple days without paying, according to court documents. The Australians admitted to using the fraudulent passes and repaid the ski resort, avoiding convictions in a Queenstown District Court this week.

A women who worked at the Cardrona ski field, was charged with accessing the resort's computer system to acquire passes and providing them to the Australian skiers, according to the police summary presented in court.

Cardrona Ski Area

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She told the four Australians - that there were prepaid multi-day passes that had not been collected, which they could use to ski for free, the police report said.

The four defendants admitted to picking up the fraudulent passes from her at the Cardrona ticketing office in Wānaka on August 30. They then used the passes for four consecutive days of skiing at the resort from August 31 to September 3.

Cardrona Chair
Photo by Kiwi Discovery Queenstown under CC BY 2.0

Judge Discharges Skiers Without Conviction

When the Australians appeared in Queenstown District Court this week, Judge Russell Walker told them their actions were "dishonest" and aimed at getting "a few days of free skiing."

However, the judge discharged the four defendants without a conviction after they paid Cardrona Alpine Resort $160 per day for the passes and made a donation to the Salvation Army charity.

"I take it that you have all learned something from this experience," Judge Walker told them in court.

The judge said the skiers would have been eligible for a police diversion program, which deals with offenders outside of court. However, there was not enough time to complete that program before they returned home to Australia.

man in black shirt sitting beside woman in white shirt

Ski Resort Employee Due Back in Court

Meanwhile, the Cardrona employee accused of providing the fraudulent passes did not enter a plea when she appeared in Queenstown District Court. She was remanded on bail and is due back in court on October 16.

Her defense lawyer indicated she would also seek a discharge without conviction when she returns to court next month.

Cardrona Alpine Resort

Cardrona Mountain Range
Photo by Steven Mclellan under CC BY 2.0

Cardrona Alpine Resort is a popular ski area located in New Zealand's Southern Alps region near Wānaka on the South Island. It sits at an elevation between 4,130 and 6,100 feet.

The resort offers terrain for all skill levels, with 20% beginner slopes, 25% intermediate, 30% advanced, and 25% expert runs. It has two halfpipes and four terrain parks for freestyle skiing and snowboarding.

Cardrona has a mix of chairlifts and surface lifts to service its trails, along with lodging, restaurants, childcare facilities, and a high-performance training center.

The ski area averages around 115 inches (290 cm) of natural snowfall each year, supplemented by snowmaking capabilities. It is about a 5.5-hour drive from Christchurch or 3 hours from Queenstown.

Cardrona has a 1,260m to 1,860m vertical drop, with 20% beginner, 25% intermediate, 30% advanced, and 25% expert terrain.

Free Skiing Scams Rare but Not Unheard Of

While the free skiing scheme devised by the Cardrona employees and Australian tourists is brazen, it's not the first time skiers or snowboarders have tried to ski for free at resorts.

Last winter, a Vermont man was arrested for skiing for 47 days at a local resort on a pass belonging to a complete stranger. He only paid for a single-day lift ticket but continually re-used the scanned pass.

In Colorado, authorities busted a fake ski pass ring in 2019, where fraudulent photocopied passes were sold at a steep discount on Craigslist and used dozens of times by different people.

people near white building during daytime

While ski resorts have increased the use of RFID technology and tamper-proof passes, skiing for free remains an enticing thrill for some rule-breaking extreme enthusiasts.

The Cardrona scheme was facilitated by an insider, allowing Australian skiers to bypass the latest fraud-prevention systems. It demonstrates the importance of vigilance and auditing procedures to detect unauthorized access even by employees.

For now, the resort has received compensation for the stolen ski days, while the tourists involved learned a lesson about taking advantage of dishonest opportunities while on vacation.

As ski season continues across New Zealand and with international travel rebounding, resorts will likely remain on high alert for any additional signs of fraudulent activity or ski pass scams aimed at stealing free days on the slopes.

Key Takeaways

  • An employee at New Zealand's Cardrona Alpine Resort provided free ski passes to Australian tourists.
  • The Australian skiers used the fraudulent passes for multiple days of skiing before admitting wrongdoing in court.
  • The employee accessed the resort's computer system to acquire unused passes to give out.
  • The skiers repaid the resort and avoided convictions, while the employee awaits trial.