Hanmer Springs (2012)      © Fiona Terry

Even the ice on the duck pond outside our cosy villa hadn't deterred the children from jumping into their togs straight after breakfast. Once at the Thermal Pools our toes numbed as we made our way from the changing rooms in the cold of the morning. Steam rose from the open-air pools and the spectacular snow-smattered mountains stood proud sentries over the beautiful alpine resort of Hanmer Springs.

I spotted a lifeguard wearing woolly gloves and thought we'd made a mistake coming mid-winter - I'm a notorious wimp when it comes to the cold and we only had wetsuits for the children. The excitement of whizzing down the SuperBowl waterslide on double doughnuts soon took my mind off the air temperature though, and besides, of course, the water was wonderfully warm.

The mineral-rich thermal water that put Hanmer on the map is naturally heated by the temperatures from deep within the earth...