China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

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China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Mar 20, 2020 11:43 pm

China Peak is about as under the radar as a ski area can be in California considering it has 1,679 vertical feet and 1,200 acres from a base at 7,030 feet. The reason is the slow and winding access Route 168, which takes nearly 2 hours from Fresno. Thus the clientele is nearly all Fresno locals.
ChinaPeak.jpg

China Peak was on its last legs after the severely dry January/February, but got 3-4 feet of snow early in the week and announced opening for Thursday.

I knew about that road as I had been to Huntington Lake twice in the late 1980's, so I drove halfway up to Shaver Lake on Wednesday afternoon. At 7:30AM there were three inches of new fluffy snow at 5,500 feet and it was still snowing.
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There was a slick downgrade just past Shaver Lake and a couple of us slid into the snowbank and the guy behind me sideswiped my left quarter panel, breaking a taillight.
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This will be examined tomorrow, but we were stopped for about 10 minutes. I drove very conservatively the rest of the way up the hill.

Outside the ticket office was this dog, part Great Pyrenee (thus pic taken for Liz) and part Anatolian sheepdog.
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I was on the mountain by 9:30AM. Chairs 1, 2, 4 and 6 were running. First time at the area with no local guidance in bad weather I stuck with the top-to-bottom chair 1 for my first 6 runs though it was probably a 12 minute ride over a mile long.

My first run I was too tempted by this view NW over Huntington Lake.
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There's a snowboarder maybe 100 feet below me struggling to get up after falling. That first 500 vertical pitch was deep and awesome. It flattened out to the Buckhorn hut by the base of chair 2 and top of chair 4. I continued down the intermediate Tollhouse run, which was groomed under the overnight snow, followed by the very gradual Academy run back to the base.

I chose to make my next five runs fairly close to chair 1 and/or the nearby closed chair 3. Mainstream is the lowest pitch looker's right of these lifts.
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I never skied that, as I dropped into the powder higher up, into areas like these.
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The snow stopped about 10AM but resumed about 11:30AM and continued the rest of the day.

There were fall lines through nicely spaced trees diagonally under the upper third of the lift, but they paralleled my first run, ending at Buckhorn/chair 2. I went that way on my 7th and 8th runs and then took a run each time on chair 2. Chair 2 serves the upper half of vertical, and in retrospect I should have hit that earlier for more efficient powder. But it was past noon when I first rode chair 2 and the runs were well chopped by then. I got some powder in the trees near Tamarack and Red Fir.

Around 1PM I passed above the main day lodge on the way to chair 1.
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People could get limited food in there but they had to take it outside to eat.

On my final run I pushed to far skier's right for the last few untracked turns.
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It's hard to tell from the pics that the terrain has a lot of rollovers, some of which are buried boulders. Whenever I saw lumps in the snow I skied between them. When I reached a rough exit traverse there were some deep holes in the snowpack as there was little base below what fell in the past week.

That exit traverse was a slog and my lower back was fatigued from the variable skiing. As the day wore on, the chopped snow got into heavier layers that could be a lot of work. It was a mix of those and some really nice powder turns. So I called it a day about 2:35PM with 16,500 vertical, about 10K of powder. That was by far the most lift served powder I skied this season.

China Peak was an outlier being open on Thursday, and I'm sure they were pleased with the result. It could have empty with most people staying home or it could have been a zoo with all the big places closed. Instead it was a moderate crowd, most of the triple or quad chairs going up occupied between 10AM and noon, but only 1 or 2 people per chair and never more than 3-5 people at the bottom waiting to get on.

As I left I chatted with an employee, who said overall it was typical for a midweek powder day and that most of the people there were local. The only unusual aspect is that there were a lot of kids because the schools were closed. She suspected that Saturday would be very busy if they were still open. I told her that China Peak was my 241st ski area. I did not tell her that Val Thorens was the new ski area I had expected to be adding to my list this week.

Sign on the bridge to the parking lot:
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It was easy to comply. Every chair I rode single, ate some jerky on the lift and peed in the woods.

I was on the road at 3PM and a bit paranoid about the downhill drive in view of what happened in the morning. But the daytime snowfall of 4-6 inches was only at higher elevation. There was no snow on the road from well above Shaver Lake and the road was actually dry below 4,500 feet.

I got down to Hwy 99 and a dinner break about 5PM. I then reserved a hotel in Sonora, planning to ski Friday at Dodge Ridge, which had been open daily since Tuesday. I heard about the governor's lockdown announcement about half an hour before reaching Sonora. Dodge Ridge updated its website at 5:30, saying "on hold, call before coming." I called after 8AM and was told by a live person that Dodge Ridge was closing. China Peak operated Friday but is now closed.

tseeb wrote:I was thinking of going to Dodge Ridge tomorrow either as a day trip or taking camper and going to Yosemite to cross-country ski on Wed, then meet Tony C at China Peak on Thurs, but my wife says if I go, I should keep going as she would not want me back.

As I took Liz to Burbank airport Wednesday, I asked her, "If not for your broken shoulder, would you be going with me to ski the next two days?" "Absolutely!" she replied. Some of us are ski nutcases, but I'm very lucky to have found a compatible nutcase!
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

Postby sierra_cement » Fri Mar 20, 2020 11:54 pm

Very interesting report Tony. I'm surprised there was a ski area left in California that you had not visited.
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Re: China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Mar 20, 2020 11:58 pm

Dodge Ridge would have been new also. I have not skied Homewood yet either.
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Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
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Re: China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

Postby jamesdeluxe » Sat Mar 21, 2020 6:05 am

sierra_cement wrote:Very interesting report Tony. I'm surprised there was a ski area left in California that you had not visited.

Agreed on both counts. About time that Tony gets off the mainstream treadmill and skis some lesser-known areas. :stir:

Google Maps sez Glendale to China Peak is 4.5 hours on dry roads. I'm guessing an additional hour due to slippery conditions -- wow, that's a hike. Only 25-ish miles from Mammoth as the crow flies.
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Re: China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Mar 21, 2020 8:55 am

Yes it's a haul. All of the the access roads up the western Sierra are long with sustained driving above 5,000 feet which can make them longer. What's more noteworthy than the 4.5 hour drive from Glendale is that it's 4 hours from China Peak to Dodge Ridge; down one road all the way to Hwy 99 in the Central Valley, an hour on 99 and then up more local roads.

There were definitely enough people to track out the powder. This was a good day but far from the one at very quiet Pajarito a year ago. Pajarito also has consistent intermediate pitch, so hard to get into trouble. China Peak has steeper sections but lots more obstacles and terrain traps. I also missed completely the moderately steep "Face" on that map. I only saw it from below and there were quite a few visible boulders. But that sector would be well worth checking out with a normal snowpack.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

Postby sierra_cement » Sat Mar 21, 2020 11:15 am

Interesting that there were enough locals to track the powder on a weekday. Part of the reason as you said was the schools being closed.
Now that I've had a good powder day at the low angle terrain at Squaw, I'd like to ski powder again. Would be nice to go to an area where there are fewer skiers. I don't think China peak would not be an area to try and learn to ski powder in California (still too much competition).

Tony Crocker wrote:Dodge Ridge would have been new also. I have not skied Homewood yet either.


An acquaintance of mine likes to go to Dodge Ridge as it is closest from the Bay Area. The base elevation seems similar to Squaw. 2-3 weeks ago, they did not have enough coverage to keep operating. I see their base elevation is 6600, which is similar to Squaw, but the West orientation must be causing a lot of snow preservation issues.

I think east orientation in general would be preferable to west orientation for snow preservation.
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Re: China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Mar 21, 2020 11:58 am

My observation from Mammoth is that NW preserves better in the winter than NE, but by May or so the afternoons are much warmer than the mornings so in late spring the NW melts out faster than the NE.

The main reason west exposures often have worse snow surfaces than east exposures is that prevailing winds are from the west and thus strip west facing and deposit on east facing. The classic comparison by my experience in this regard is Sunshine (west facing) vs. Castle (east facing) in Alberta. A lot of ski areas in the Northeast face east, probably for this reason. Liz observes that the snow tends to be better at Stowe than Smuggler's Notch and that would be the reason as Smuggs actually gets a bit more snow.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

Postby Sbooker » Sun Mar 22, 2020 4:54 pm

Tony Crocker wrote:Dodge Ridge would have been new also. I have not skied Homewood yet either.


What's going on with this? Homewood isn't exactly 'off the radar'. The pics of the views are famous all over the world.
Homewood must be the most obvious omission in your list of skied areas.
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Re: China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Mar 22, 2020 9:52 pm

My ski history in Northern California is here: http://bestsnow.net/vft_ncal.htm

I have spent an entire ski week in Tahoe exactly once, in February 1985 when Adam was a baby and our non-skiing friend Elda Weinstein watched him during the ski day while we watched her then 4 and 5 year old girls in the evenings while she was at the casinos.

In the 1980's and early 1990's I took a 4 day trip nearly every season, most often over MLK weekend. Early in this process my Tahoe skiing became concentrated at 4 major areas.

Starting in 1996 my annual "long weekend trip" shifted to Utah when I met the Iron Blosam timeshare group. Since I was a guest I typically went for 4 days until I bought my own unit in 2008.

Tahoe skiing has been erratic since. In 2005 one of the trips was for a regional NASJA event and in 2012 and 2014 there were Epic Forum Gatherings.

In 2005 Mt. Rose opened the chutes to skiing with an exit lift. I skied there during President's weekend and had an impressive powder day: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... .php?t=728 Of the so called second tier areas, Mt. Rose is by far my favorite in terms of both terrain quality and average snow conditions. So on short trips to Tahoe, that's where I'm drawn if not at one of the majors. And now I have Liz with me, who had never skied Tahoe before 2014.

Since it's getting more difficult for me to add new ski areas in western North America, I suspect I will get around to Homewood when I'm in the neighborhood sometime. I have also never skied Boreal or Tahoe Donner, much smaller areas. Dodge Ridge and China Peak require dedicated effort to reach, and this past week provided the reason to exert that effort, 50% successful.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

Postby jamesdeluxe » Mon Mar 23, 2020 3:46 am

it has 1,679 vertical feet and 1,200 acres from a base at 7,030 feet

I know from experience in the Alps how how ski areas that look middling in size on trail maps can be quite large in reality, often five or more miles across. Still, you're saying that the map above covers 1,200 acres? Because it's a small indie ski area, China Peak's lifts/trails don't appear on Google Maps.
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Re: China Peak, CA, Mar. 19, 2020

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Mar 23, 2020 9:07 am

YourCentralValley.com wrote:Posted: Mar 22, 2020 / 07:42 PM PDT / Updated: Mar 22, 2020 / 07:42 PM PDT
Image

LAKESHORE, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — China Peak Mountain Resort is closing amid COVID-19 concerns.

China Peak was given a directive by local forest service to cease operations after this past Friday.

The resort says on Thursday and Friday the average skier or snowboarder had just over 1.5 acres per person of open space (900 skiers/riders over 1,400 acres)

As with Dodge Ridge, the Alberta areas, etc., China Peak was ordered to close by government authority.

I got the 1,200 acres from Wikipedia. The file EMSC uploaded over decade ago has 430 acres. There is no acreage printed on the trail map. The 1,200 or 1,400 is probably boundary to boundary. A lot of the tree spacing is quite good, so I won't quibble with that. What's not skiable due to large boulders, terrain traps, etc. is hard to quantify.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
User avatar
Tony Crocker
 
Posts: 10503
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California


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