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Friday, Jan 25 2013 12:01 AM

Trip Planner: China Peak Mountain Resort

Story and photos by Lois Henry

Finally! The snow gods have decided to smile on us after weeks and weeks of waiting. The snow is absolutely gorgeous right now so make your plans and head to the hills.

I lucked out and went to China Peak Mountain Resort early in December, right after one middling storm. They do a lot of snow making up there, and I hit it just right with cool enough temperatures that they had a little more than half of the mountain open.

Related Photos

China Peak the resort is ramping up its parks for snow boarders, like this one ready to go down the mountain.

A view of Huntington Lake at China Peak Mountain Resort in Lakeshore.

I can't brag about China Peak enough. It was my hometown hill, as I grew up in Fresno, so I feel like I know every nook and cranny of the resort. But every time I go, I see they're doing something new and interesting. So it's not just fond memories that keep me coming back.

It's not that much of a drive -- about three hours, more or less -- so it's in the wheelhouse for us B-town folks.

Most importantly for families, they have a lot of options for kids, with two beginner areas near the lodges and several lesson packages that accommodate children of different levels.

And, though it's not my thing, the resort is really ramping up its parks for snowboarders. If you're just starting out, there's the Burton Progression Park. If you're looking for a bigger challenge, they moved the main park back to Tollhouse, served by Chair 4. The website touts stuff I'm too old to understand such as "a variety of boxes and rails, as well as bigger jump lines, hips, spines, etc." Sounds like an orthopedic misadventure waiting to happen, but I'll leave that to the kids.

Oh, and when I was up there I did see "the bus," also in the main boarder park. I'm not sure what it's all about, but the website beckons boarders to be sure and check it out -- which makes me think it must be something you moms out there will cringe at and the youngsters will love!

If you're old school, like me, still schussing down the hill on two sticks, you will find every level from easy peasy to bone chilling. Now that they got a good clobbering of snow, everything is open including China Bowl for powder seekers, and the Face for suicidal types.

"Don't fall," my sister used to tell me, "or you won't stop til the bottom."

Comforting words. And I see they've even opened the backside of the mountain (seriously, double black diamond!). My more insane friends used to ski that back in our fearless teenage years and raved about it.

Because I went in the early season, I was able to get a room at the China Peak Inn for a good price, plus they threw in a lift ticket as well, making it irresistible. On non-holiday, mid-week dates you can get the same deal so be sure to check their website.

The economy room gets you one free adult lift ticket. All other rooms get you two adult lift tickets. Mid-week means Sunday through Thursday nights, and the lift ticket is valid for the day following your stay. We're past the main holiday season now, but Feb. 15 to 17 is considered a holiday, so plan accordingly!

Keep checking the website for mid-week pricing and other money savers. But above all, get out there and enjoy the snow while we have it!

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If you go

China Peak Mountain Resort: skichinapeak.com

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