China Peak opens to crowds starving for winter sports

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The snow season officially started Friday with the opening of the China Peak ski resort.

The slopes are smooth and the runs are ready on opening day. "People are having fun -- tons of fun, especially when I was recording. They wanted to have a little too much fun," said Travis Hensley, of Fresno, as he fell down from too much fun.

Hensley is better in motion, hiding behind his skull face mask. He and his buddies from Fresno are avid snowboarders, but the last few years have been bumpy -- because of drought and warm temperatures.

"They've just got to hope for some more snow," said Jonathan Elenes, of Fresno. "They say El Nio's coming but they've been saying that for quite a while."

All the resort really wants is more of what they had early Friday afternoon: A little bit of snow in the sky, dark clouds on the horizon, temperatures in the 20s, skiers on the slopes. It's a perfect start to what could be a big season.

"As they say, for a skier you need slopes, snow and uphill conveyance," said Rich Bailey, of the China Peak Mountain Resort. "So, we have the slopes, we have the uphill conveyance. We don't have the snow, but right now we're prepped. It's the best start I've seen in at least 4 years."

Snowmaking has been more effective in recent colder weather and a series of storms delivered enough natural snow to let the resort open three weeks earlier than last year and enticed a big crowd of people starving for winter sports.

"We had season passes last year, didn't get to use them very much, so we're up here today on our new season passes and hope to be able to use them a lot this year," said Melissa Costanzo, of Clovis.

If they can't, China Peak will give them another chance. The resort guarantees 100 snow days or else next year's season pass is free.

El Nio winters typically peak in December, then continue through Feburary, but a light at the end of a dry tunnel seems to be coming into focus already. "We're looking awesome and compared to the last 3 years, super super awesome," said Bailey.

A great start, with no signs of slowing down.... Well, maybe one.
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