Justine Tyerman makes a major decision . . . based on the colour of her ski jacket.
Sitting on the chairlift at Cardrona one sunny, blue-bird powder day late last season, I became acutely aware that my skis were being scrutinised by the young dude beside me. He was peering down at them, apparently fascinated by my elderly Dynastars.
"I've never seen skis like that before," he said almost admiringly as he surveyed my carvers from yesteryear.
He then straightened up and clacked his snazzy, fat powder skis together to shake off the snow, no doubt so everyone on the lift could admire them.
I blushed under my polar fleece neck warmer and goggles, and mumbled something about being unable to part with my skis because they were the best I'd ever had and were state-of-the-art in their day . . . and then somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind, I decided it was time.
So at the end of the day, fortified by a glass or two of gluhwein at the Cardrona pub, I toddled off to Outside Sports in Wanaka to see my old mates Darren, Paul and Kazu.
It seemed like just the other day that Kazu sold me my beloved Dynastars but he gave me a quizzical look that suggested it might have been more like 10-15 years . . . or maybe even longer.
I've always found a good reason not to replace my dear old Dynastars – I love them. They are trustworthy and loyal winter pals, and if I point them in the right direction, they actually ski for me. So the purchase of new skis was a really BIG deal for me. I felt nervous . . . and even traitorous.
But it was late in the season and there were some incredibly good deals around. In the long run, what clinched the sale was when Paul produced a pair of Dynastar Legends that matched my new aqua jacket.
It was meant to be I decided, there and then.
"Och aye. You'll love the Legends – I guarantee it lassie," said Paul in his delightful Scottish accent.
I trust Paul – he's also my boot doctor who applies hot irons to my ski boots every winter to accommodate my bulging bunions.
Next day, back on the Whitestar Express at Cardrona, I clanked my skis together to shed the snow so that everyone could admire my fabulous Legends . . . and how they matched my jacket. I even took selfies of my skis and jacket and sent them to all my friends. They were suitably impressed.
I just wish I'd been able to find my chairlift mate from the previous day so I could gloat about my new skis.
I have to confess I did handle the powder better than ever that day.
After the first few tentative turns, a technique which never works well in soft snow, I threw caution to the non-existent wind and took a direct line down the mountain, performing a reasonable series of "S"s without disgracing myself. A fluffy few centimetres of dry powder covered a solid base with no sign of rocks so my confidence grew, speed increased and my heart soared.
There's nothing to equal the euphoria of swishing through powder, silent except for the rhythmic whoosh of your skis floating lightly through weightless snow. The heady sense of freedom is intoxicating.
Cardrona was in serious party mode that day with the Winter Games and Gay Pride Week in full swing in prefect spring conditions. We watched the world's best hurtling into space over The Big Air jump and aerials so daring I had my mittens over my eyes as we cruised above the terrain park on the Whitestar Express.
DJs, the Sweet Mix Kids, were belting out music from the veranda at the Mezz Café, as skiers and snowboarders mounted the podium to collect their medals. It was razzmatazz in the extreme.
At Captains Café, a fancy-dress lunch was in full-swing. I even met Dino the Dinosaur. We sat in the sun drinking ice-cold cider, watching the shenanigans. They sure know how to party at Cardy.
I can't wait to get back up the mountain again this year and try my Legends (and matching jacket) on the new terrain opened up at Pringles below Captain's Café. They are installing another chairlift there which will be operational in the 2020 season - but in the meantime, some challenging new runs are available this year.
Technically, it's not a new lift – it's the former McDougall's Quad that's been given a facelift and repurposed to a whole new life as the Pringles Quad.
Advanced skiers and snowboarders are frothing at the mouth about the new lift because it will provide access to a series of steep chutes to test even the experts.
But fear not, there's also an intermediate trail planned and one that will extend all the way to the base of Valley View Quad.
Pringles will increase Cardrona's lift capacity by 20 percent, from 5500 to 7000 skiers an hour, taking pressure off Captain's and Whitestar Express.
The new trails will level the Cardrona playing field to an even split of terrain for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders, and take the skiable terrain to 400 hectares.
Looking further ahead, once the proposed Soho Basin development is completed in around four or five years, the terrain will be more than doubled to 900 hectares – New Zealand's largest single commercial alpine resort.
The first snow has already arrived. All we need now is for the legendary GSG (Great Snow Goose) to deliver more of the white stuff by opening day on June 1.
If you go:
Hit the snow:
near Wanaka is one of New Zealand's most popular ski and snowboard areas, attracting all kinds of snow enthusiasts – from beginners and families, to Olympic and X Games athletes. The season opens on June 1.
Get your gear: Outside Sports has shops in Wanaka, Queenstown, Queenstown Airport and Te Anau or you can shop online. Adventure experts since 1995, they offer a huge range of outdoor clothing, shoes, sports accessories and equipment for skiing, snowboarding, biking, hiking, and mountain adventures. Outside Sports also has bike rental and ski hire.
Find a bed: Bookabach was established nearly 20 years ago and is considered New Zealand's most trusted holiday rental site for families. There are over 11,700 properties to choose from on the easy-to-operate website.
Getting there: Air New Zealand flies daily to Queenstown from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch with connections available across the domestic network. With the new airfares from the regions, we can fly from Gisborne to Queenstown for as little as $99 one way.