New features attract beginners and experts to China Peak

FRESNO, California

Four feet of new, natural snow blankets the slopes at the new China Peak -- a great start for the resort's fresh start. "This is a godsend to anybody that's a skier," said Russel Efird, who started skiing at the resort as an 8-year-old, in 1959. "In my lifetime, this'll only be the second time I've been able to ski on Thanksgiving."

Hidden beneath some of the snow are the features updated since the resort changed names – back to China Peak, which was its name until it became Sierra Summit in 1982.

Mainstream Station has a new bar and cantina on one end, a new "Learn to Ski & Ride Center" on the other. It's a rental center for rookies and it puts them a lot closer to the easy hills.

Getting beginners to come back is a big part of the picture for the new owner, Tim Cohee. "The amount of retention, the number of people who actually stay with it is kind of a disappointing number for the entire ski industry."

So, they've expanded their beginner area so all skiers can feel free to use the slopes. There are now two beginner areas, waiting to be groomed, ready to open on Friday.

There's something new for experience skiers too. The Firebowl terrain park should open its first features within a week of opening day. "It has the best snow on the mountain," said Cohee. "It has the best exposure on the mountain. It's isolated. It has a great jump line."

But the biggest part of the resort's $500,000 facelift is the hotel. Now known as the China Peak Inn, its entire west wing is getting revamped.

From floor to ceiling, the dining room will have a new hardwood look and the rooms are getting updates as well. Regular visitors are liking what they're seeing so far.

"It's just nice to have something that'll be a little fresh, a little different, a little new," said Efird.

The hotel will be finished by mid-December, but the east wing is already open, waiting for the first guests at the new China Peak resort.

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