Taking a gamble… sometimes it pays off, writes travel writer Justine Tyerman
Those magical words ‘Snow-To-Low-Levels’ create a kind of lunacy in keen skiers – they were all it took for us to jump on the Air NZ website, find some surprisingly-cheap airfares from Gisborne to Queenstown return, email our mates at Outside Sports to rent ski gear, contact JUCY Rentals to book a 4WD and call our daughter and her fiancé in Sydney to meet us for a long weekend in Wanaka.
We’ve often talked about heading south at a moment’s notice when the weather and snow conditions are perfect rather than booking months in advance and finding we’ve hit precisely the WRONG week. But until this year, we’ve never been brave, free and spontaneous enough to just do it.
Time was short so I came up with a hair-brained scheme whereby we would pick up the skis, boots, poles and helmets at the Wanaka Outside Sports shop and meet Sophie and Doug up at the mountain at Cardrona so we could cram in a half day’s skiing straight after they arrived. We had been dealing with Outside Sports for decades, way back when they were called Good Sports, but the likelihood of the shop having exactly the gear we needed including the right-sized boots without Sophie and Doug trying them on was a long shot… but worth a gamble.
Lottie and Henry at Outside Sports.
However, not only had lovely Lottie and Henry retrieved the records of the last time we rented gear from the Queenstown shop two years previously, they had brand new equipment put aside for us. Super-efficient, super-friendly, super-equipment. It’s so nice to see the same faces in the shop year-after-year too – Kazu who sold me my first pair of Dynastars many years ago, Paul who doctors my boots every year to accommodate my bunions and smiley Jack, the funny rental guy.
We were out of there within 15 minutes and heading up the mountain with big grins on our faces… and slight feelings of trepidation over the fit of the boots especially for super-fussy Sophie.
Sophie and Doug all geared up and ready to ski.
When she slipped her feet into the boots and smiled, it was a promising sign. And when she was beaming after the first run, there was a huge sense of relief all round. Easy-to-please Doug was very happy with his brand new Langes so the rent-before-you-try gamble had paid off. They also rated the new Dynastars the best they had ever skied on. And the helmets and poles were a good fit too.
Our long weekend turned into four magnificent days’ skiing in primo snow and weather conditions with clear, sunny skies and no wind, and one misty, snowy day during which we did planning for Sophie and Doug’s wedding in Wanaka early next year. We even had a day of fresh, fluffy powder… bliss.
Perfect snow and weather conditions at Cardrona Alpine Resort.
We skied the entire mountain from boundary to boundary and everything in between. It had been years since we’d skied the Secret Shute on the extreme right of the mountain (looking up) and it was brilliant – untouched powder and the whole piste to ourselves.
We rode the ‘Chondy’, Cardrona’s smart new McDougall’s Express Chondola lift – a chair and gondola combo - to the top of the mountain, and sat in beanbags in the sun at the Vista Bar drinking bubbly to celebrate the upcoming wedding.
A perfect day at Cardrona Alpine Resort -Chris and Justine on the Queenstown Return run.
Our last run was the gentle scenic Queenstown Return and Skyline along the left boundary with spectacular views of the Southern Alps, the Wakatipu Basin and my childhood holiday home, Arrowtown.
In the summer, we’ll rent some bikes from Outside Sports and take the new Aussie in-laws on a cycle tour of Wanaka. They’ve never been there before so they are in for a real treat!
Image credits: Justine Tyerman