Rancheria Enterprises at Huntington Lake includes a marina, boat rental, campground and general store. Photo via Rancheria Enterprises
Written by Edward Smith
Significant investments made this year at China Peak kick off the resort ownership’s venture into making the mountain escape a “year-round attraction.”
Fresh from paying off the debt to acquire the formerly named Sierra Summit in 2010, China Peak Mountain Resort, LLC, wasted no time buying Rancheria Enterprises on the shores of Huntington Lake and a new snow-making machine for the ski resort, said Tim Cohee, managing partner for the group.
“In the next five to seven years, we’re going to have one of the major year-round attractions in California,” Cohee said.
This winter, the group of three owners will debut a game changer for the slopes.
“We were able to justify a sizable investment with what will be one of the larger snowmaking systems in California,” Cohee said.
The $3 million network of pipes and blowers will create powder without the need of existing snow. The system’s output puts it on par with major ski resorts in Southern California and Lake Tahoe, Cohee said. The previous system utilized existing snow to supplement areas that did not get enough of a dusting to operate smoothly.
By this coming season, the resort will be well on its way to having 90% of its 45 runs covered by a snowmaker.
Cohen describes the move as a “total game changer.” Without having to rely on natural snow, this means they are “as close to a guarantee as you can get” for openings by Thanksgiving.
Cohen said resorts such as Snow Summit, Bear Mountain, Mammoth and Heavenly are able to sell so many season passes because “everyone knows it’s the most reliable.”
While this past season, rains produced record amounts of powder, this is not always the case.
Five years of drought prompted ownership to make the investment.
Even after the drought ended, the 2017-18 season nearly crippled the resort after rains didn’t yield much more than a couple of inches before March.
The resort made only 40% of its typical revenue.
“You can’t miss Christmas in this industry,” Cohee said. “That’s the kiss of death.”
The Christmas break alone makes up 20-25% of yearly revenues, he added.
On the summer side of things, the group also purchased Rancheria Enterprises at the beginning of July. Only two miles from China Peak, the marina, boat rental, campground and general store gives the China Peak resort not only a mountain opportunity, but a lake opportunity.
Visitors can ride horses or bike on the network of trails included in the special permit that came with the purchase.
“We felt being so close to the lake, it would be a good idea to develop a true four-season business model,” Cohee said.
Besides some minor repairs to the dock, the investment will see the addition of weddings and day-use picnic grounds to the resume of activities available.
The Rancheria Enterprises investment and the snow-making machine are only part of a multi-million dollar, self-financed effort that puts them in a position “where we’re always open,” Cohee said.