Work on a $3 million snowmaking system at China Peak began in 2018. It will finally be deployed for visitors this season. Photo via China Peak
Written by Edward Smith
Even with the annual uncertainty around Sierra snowfall, this upcoming ski season will be the first that China Peak’s operators can fully deploy a new capital investment.
Work on the $3 million snowmaking system at the ski resort began in 2018. And while it was ready to be used last season, co-owner Tim Cohee, managing partner with China Peak Mountain Resort LLC, said the Creek Fire kept them from operating.
This year, they plan on having their first runs by Thanksgiving — if not earlier. The new system allows them to create snow regardless of the rainfall. The only thing they require is for the mountain to be cold enough to keep the snow from melting.
“This will be the first time with a system of this size — which is one of the ten largest in the state,” said Cohee. “We’re excited to see what this thing can do.”
Their previous system worked to build up ramps or hills for ski lifts, acting as more of a supplemental system.
“We will not be waiting for natural snow this year,” said Cohee. “If we see a cold snap, we will get runs going as soon as we can.”
The past few years have been difficult for the investment group, said Cohee. He along with Ross Blackburn and Chris Hecker purchased what used to be Sierra Summit in 2012. In the 11 years they’ve owned it, they’ve had seven years of drought.
Christmas is the make-or-break for ski resorts, says Cohee. If they have a good Christmas, they’re almost guaranteed to have a good year. Conversely, a bad Christmas nearly guarantees a bad year.
Snow at China Peak averages 148 inches yearly, according to onthesnow.com. The amount of snow coming down at China Peak only surpassed that three times. While the 2019/20 ski season was close with 137 inches, the Creek Fire had the resort closed for much of the season.
Cohee said now, there’s not much left to burn.
One problem persistent throughout nearly every industry is hiring.
Cohee said he’d love to get a couple hundred people working concessions or ski lifts. They have housing for about half that number, which Cohee says is higher than most ski resorts.
They will have two job fairs — one at the resort Nov. 6 and another Nov. 19 and 20 at Sierra Vista Mall.
They’ll be open Thursday through Monday and during the holidays they’ll be open all week.
One thing Cohee looks forward to are the college students coming from across the world to work at the resort.
Every year, they’ll get about two dozen students from South America, Australia and New Zealand. Brazil and Costa Rica send the most students. They come over on the U.S. Government’s J-1 Visa and many are studying to become engineers, doctors and lawyers.
Cohee said China Peak is one of only three owner-operated ski resorts left in California.
And now, with the new system in place, Cohee looks forward to the year.
“We survived last year, it was a tough year,” he said. “We’re in a good year now.”