Southern exposure

Helen Jackson and family take on Cardrona

It’s 9.30am on a oonday and the weather at Cardrona is bright andcrisp. I sit with a latte, contemplating my day. Do I ski or, instead, kick back with my book and a bar of chocolate? This major decision will take more than five minutes so I savour my coffee, loving the fact that my kids and husband are busy in the snow alreadyand there’s no urgency to go anywhere.

Through the café’s large glass windows I can see the little ski school cadets coming out of their hut in lines, withever-patient instructors cajoling them along and matching children to the right size skis. This is my girls’ second winter of Cardrona Skiwis and aside from the usual angst about making friends in their class, they are feeling pretty comfortable.

Jemima (6) is wondering how many hot chocolates she can drink in a day and Daisy (7) is anticipating cottage pie for lunch… so much for skiing! Freddie (4) takes a little convincing that the kindy is the best place for him,although to us it makes perfect sense. The teachers are trained, the facilities are fantastic and, with private ski lessons included, the rates are really reasonable.

Before I make any decisions, I decide to take a last peek at Freddie and make sure he’s happy, but Bridget the ski school organiser intercepts me en route. She assures me that he’s fine and suggests that now the kids are sorted I should come and join the Lindauer Ladies ski group. I protest that my skiing is very basic and that I feel unfit and incapable, but Bridget points out that there are lots like me. This is the perfect opportunity to improve my skiing in the company of other women, she says.

With butterflies fluttering in my stomach, I make my way to the café meeting point. At least things seem civilised so far. An extra coffee gives me caffeine invincibility and I decide that I actually can do this!

First up, we all ski down a gentle slope and are graded according to our skills. The groups are small, our instructors are encouraging and the sun is shining. once we’ve all warmed up, staff shoot a video of each of us skiing. This gives us an opportunity to discuss our performances and hopefully pick up better techniques.Who said anything about old dogs and new tricks? The day passes quickly and I call to the kids from chairlifts, or across the snow, as our paths cross occasionally.

While eating chocolate and reading my book in the sun would have been luxurious, it’s good to know my skiingis improving and I don’t even feel particularly self-conscious. I think of my husband Ed who is out theresomewhere on the mountain, jumping off boulders and edges. There’s no chance of me out-skiing him any time in the near future but I’ll be keeping up with the kids soon.

After a noodle-bar lunch and an afternoon skiing, Ed and I meet in time to get the car loaded with our skis before picking up three flushed and weary children from Skiwis and kindy.

Freddie is excited that he made it onto the magic carpet – a conveyer belt that takes skiers up and down the easy slopes – without falling. The girls are bubbling with stories of instructor pranks and who did the best jump. The half-hour drive into Wanaka starts with noise and chaos but before long there are two children asleepin the back, half-eaten chocolate bars melting in their hands.

Wanaka is set up well for après ski activities, with the family market firmly in mind. The Cow restaurant and Speights Ale House are especially good for kids and the relaxed dress code means you can easily go straight from the mountain. A number of resorts offer bubbling spa baths and jacuzzis which are the ideal tonic for aching muscles.

After our early morning start – and skiing all day – we find ourselves hitting the sack before we know it. our rented house is warm and snug and has all the facilities needed to dry our ski clothes and boots overnight.

oy three days of Lindauer Ladies passes quickly and I am pleased to see a marked improvement in my second video. After three full days in Skiwis, the kids have made new best friends and they promise to keep in touch with them. Daisy and Jemima have done very well and both will be ready for a higher level next time.

Freddie’s biggest accomplishment is going up the chairlift and skiing down – accompanied by the whoops and cheers of his family. He is incredibly proud of himself and now that he has mastered skiing – and after watching the pros on the half pipe – he thinks he might be ready to try snowboarding!

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