China Peak

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China Peak
China Peak logo.jpg
Location Chinese Peak
Nearest city Lakeshore, California
Coordinates 37°13′47″N 119°09′30″W / 37.2297°N 119.1583°W / 37.2297; -119.1583Coordinates: 37°13′47″N 119°09′30″W / 37.2297°N 119.1583°W / 37.2297; -119.1583
Top elevation 8,709 ft (2,655 m)
Base elevation 7,030 ft (2,140 m)
Skiable area 1,200 acres (490 ha)
Runs 45
Longest run 2.25 mi (3.62 km) (Academy)
Lift system 11 lifts: 3 triples, 4 doubles, 2 handle tows, 1 t-bar, 1 moving carpet
Terrain parks Firebowl
Canyonlands Burton
Progression/Ullmann's Alley
Snowfall 300 in (760 cm)
Night skiing None
Website www.SkiChinaPeak.com

China Peak is a ski area in Central California. It opened in 1958, named after the mountain, Chinese Peak. The original owner was Knut Flint who had been part of a worldwide helicopter services company. Mr. Flint had had his eye on this area for a number of years. He recognized the skiers in the San Joaquin Valley would have to drive to Lake Tahoe or Badger Pass. There were no other resorts on the southwest side of the Sierras. He recruited Herbert Schwarz, an Austrian immigrant with ski industry experience to be the general manager. He coordinated the permitting, construction, start-up and operations. During this time the Forest Service was quite receptive to development in the Sierras. Even Walt Disney was looking at developing Onion Valley.

The first chairlift was installed during the summer of 1958. At the time it was the longest chairlift in the U.S. at over one mile, including a midway station. It was manufactured by Riblet Lift Company based in Washington state, using what was then some very novel design concepts. This included support towers that were not vertical but rather 90 degrees to the ground surface. The chairs were attached to the cable by weaving a bar into the center of the cable. This eliminated the uncomfortable bump when chairs passed over tower wheels due to the typical external clamp design. Since there was no power available in the area a large diesel generator and fuel tank with fuel capacity for the entire season were hauled to the summit. This also required that someone either stay on top or take the Tucker snow-cat up to start the generator and chairlift each day. Boyd Turner was the construction manager, but not a skier, living in Shaver Lake. He would volunteer with others to man the top station during that first year.

The first year was relatively successful, but it had been recognized that the lack of sleeping and food facilities in the area limited attendance. Most people drove up from Fresno via the Toll House road which was a long haul. Mr. Schwarz had set up a very simple snack bar and rental hut at the base and lived in a cabin near Shaver Lake, some 40 miles away. So a lodge was developed by architect Art Lavanino. Mr. Flint wanted a first class facility including an outdoor pool. A simple dorm was also added for staff and some guests. This was a costly investment closely following the original infrastructure. To give the resort greater presence, Mr. Schwarz recruited a well known Austrian ski school director to offer instruction on the latest skiing techniques

The hotel was completed just in time for one of the heaviest winter snow falls in local history. Mr. Schwarz had become good friends with the road department, but they were not prepared for this. After one big snow fall he would have to follow a snow blower for many hours just to reach the resort. The dorm collapsed due to snow weight that year. Worst of all skiers could not reach the resort during much of the winter. Without the revenue the resort declared bankruptcy and in 1960-61 was taken over by others.

In 1981 the resort was purchased by the Snow Summit company and the name was changed to Sierra Summit before the 1982-1983 season. In the spring of 2010 it was sold and the original China Peak name was restored beginning in the 2010-2011 season. It is located on the south shore of Huntington Lake, about 65 miles northeast of Fresno. China Peak has 1,200 acres (4.9 km2) of skiable terrain, much of it covered by snowmaking.

References[edit]

2. Recollections of Tony Schwarz, son of Herbert Schwarz

External links[edit]