Woohoo! Book those flights NOW, I shrieked as the weather forecaster solemnly pointed at Wanaka and uttered those wonderful words skiers love to hear: Snow-to-low-levels.

Feeling daringly spontaneous, we jumped on the Air NZ website, found some ridiculously cheap airfares from Gisborne to Queenstown return, emailed JUCY to book a 4WD with chains and a roof-rack, and Wanaka Outside Sports to rent some ski gear, and called our daughter and her fiancé in Sydney to meet us for a long weekend.

Sophie and Doug managed to get even cheaper airfares and got to Queenstown before us on a direct flight from Sydney.

Remember the days when we actually DROVE all the way to Wanaka, I said to my husband, Chris, as we headed to the airport like a couple of excited teenagers.


"Yes," he shuddered as memories of hours of driving with cranky kids in the back seat and his severe sea-sickness on the Cook Strait ferry crossings came flooding back.

"Seems ages ago now. How many years did we do that?" he asked incredulous. "And why?"
In years gone by, we used to cram the kids, cases and ski gear into the car, take a deep breath, and set off from Gisborne on a gruelling two or three-day road trip to Wanaka.

The excitement of heading south would last about five minutes, but the rest of the time, with the exception of the spectacular Kaikoura coast and Tekapo to Wanaka legs of the journey, was an endurance test.

Lives, times and economics have changed. The 'kids' have long since flown the nest, airfares are cheaper and so are rental vehicles and ski gear.

Now there are just two of us, flying to Queenstown in a couple of hours and hiring a car at the airport saving four-five days driving and precious leave is a no-brainer.

What's more, if you do all the paperwork online before you leave home, you can be whizzing up the mountain with your ski gear in time for a half day at Cardrona, Treble Cone, Coronet Peak or the Remarkables on the day you fly in.

Treble Cone is especially attractive because JUCY's SKI4FREE deal gives one person free skiing for each day of the rental period.

Our long weekend turned into five days with absolutely magnificent snow and weather conditions at all four ski resorts. The 4WD was a dream to drive over the Crown Range between Queenstown and Wanaka, and up the mountain roads which were icy in the early mornings and muddy by late afternoon.

The other awesome thing about the fly-hire approach is that we leave our old dungas in the attic and ski on the latest equipment every year ... and we have an entire fleet of vehicles awaiting us in our 'garage' in Queenstown.

There's one to suit every purpose - a zippy compact for two of us, a 4WD for four with ski gear, a people-mover for family weddings, a campervan for cosy, self-contained accommodation and our all-time favourite, 'Lucy Class', a six-berth motorhome with a proper shower, loo, kitchen, fridge and three double beds for the ultimate luxury experience.

Our winter and summer roadies with 'Lucy' have been the most relaxing holidays ever.
These days, even when we travel in Australia and the United States, we can rent a JUCY. We're thinking of doing a roadie around the US ski fields in 2018.

Might even take the 'kids' with us now they've grown up and are quite civilised - come to think of it, they can drive and we can create mayhem in the back seat. Ahh, the sweet taste of revenge!

* www.jucy.co.nz
* www.outsidesports.co.nz
* www.treblecone.com
* www.cardrona.com
* www.nzski.com