The towering Sierra Nevada range looms large to the northeast of Fresno. The majestic snow capped mountains are clearly visible on most winter days. The foothills begin at the very outskirts of suburban Clovis, and within 20 miles the climb to the high-country begins. Highway 168 winds from Fresno through Clovis, Prather and on to Shaver Lake. From there it is a steady climb through majestic Oak trees, rippling creeks and into the tall Pines. The winter snows often extend well below Shaver Lake. From Shaver toward China Peak the highway is banked high with snow almost every winter.
During the summer months, after the winter’s snows have melted and the creeks are rushing with cold-clear water, the Sierra Nevada becomes the grazing range for cattle. It is because of the long history of cattle grazing on this United States Forest Service land, that one towering mountain has been named China Peak.
China Peak History
The Blasingame family has been cattle-ranchers in the San Joaquin valley since the 1800’s. Early in the last century they adopted a poor Chinese street waif in San Francisco. This lad came to live with the family: he was named Charley Blasingame, and he was soon part of the family. He was a willing worker, often helping with the family chores. He took a special interest in cooking for the family and the ranch-hands. During the summer, when the cattle were driven to their lush green mountain grazing lands high in the Sierra Nevada, Charley went along in the chuck-wagon as the camp-cook. He usually returned to the home-ranch in the valley in the fall, but as he grew into manhood, he built a small cabin out of rocks and logs and decided to stay behind as the ranch-hands broke camp. He spent his long cold dark winters alone in his cabin for many years. He eventually met an Indian woman and they were married. Charley spent his last years at his cabin. That little cabin is just a pile of rubble now, but it will always be know as “The China-Man’s Cabin.”
Towering high above the valley where Charley’s cabin once stood are majestic, ancient dormant volcanoes. The long cold magma forms chimney- like spires that jut out of the mountain-tops and command the awe and respect of all who are inspired by them. The highest of these many dormant monuments of past centuries is 8,709 ft. high. It was named in honor of Charley Blasingame by the U.S. Forest Service. The name was Chinese Mountain, and it has since been changed to China Peak. The ski resort’s first chairlift is anchored to the stone of this volcano. There were always mountain travelers who hiked, fished, hunted and camped in the High Sierra Range, and the Native-Americans were soon joined by loggers and miners. By the beginning of the 20th century, along came men with the visionary dreams that would tame the creeks and rivers to provide electrical power to run the street-cars in the growing city of Los Angeles, running to Huntington Beach. Huntington Lake was built to store water to turn the huge generators in the Big Creek Power Plant.
Winter sports were becoming more popular in the forties and fifties, and enough enthusiasm for the sport of skiing existed in the Fresno area to convince the Forest Service that a new ski area was a needed possibility in the central Sierra Nevada mountains. The road from Fresno circled through the small town of Big Creek and then around the new Huntington Lake dam. The road was steep, filled with treacherous hairpin curves, and it was not passable for many months of the year due to the heavy snows.
In 1956 a new section of Highway 168 was completed from Shaver Lake to Huntington Lake that was more direct, with many of the sharp curves eliminated, enabling the new rotary snowplows to keep the highway usable in the winter. It was time to build a ski-resort.
Fresno Chamber of Commerce secretary, M.P. Loshe, had pushed the idea to the Forest Service, and they were in favor of creating a ski-resort. The mountain area near Huntington had been scouted for a ski area since 1954. Tom Sovulewski, a native of Yosemite, and twice state alpine skiing champion in the 1930’s had led rangers to Chinese Mountain. “This is the spot,” he announced while standing near the summit; they agreed. A lease was signed in 1956 with a 35 year-old entrepreneur named Knute Flint, to build and operate the ski resort. Construction of the first chairlift began in 1957, and China Peak opened for skiing January 18, 1958.
China Peak has had many good years and many bad years. It struggled through several owners, and in 1980 the name was changed to Sierra Summit. It welcomed new owners once more in 2010, and the name was changed back to the original name, China Peak.
The New China Peak
Now, that China Peak is back it is better than ever! This premier California resort offers outstanding winter skiing, snowboarding, and sledding, and has added many summer activities to keep guests coming back year-round.
The exciting slopes offer superb snow conditions all winter long, featuring breath-taking views of frozen Huntington Lake from the crystal clear air at the summit of our namesake mountain, China Peak, topping out at 8,709 ft. Challenging long runs that wind from top to bottom offer the adrenaline packed excitement that attracts skiers from far and wide. The glitz and glamour have been replaced by first-class skiing, friendly atmosphere and comfortable lodging. China Peak’s small resort hospitality radiates our passion for skiing and our joy for mountain living.
Friendly smiles and warm greetings welcome not only expert skiers from all parts of the west, but the beginning skiers and snow-boarders are welcome as well. China Peak Ski School is world renowned for turning out the best!
Served by seven chair-lifts, T-bars, many beginner tows and a magic carpet, China Peak skiers are whisked to the mountain-tops without the usual lift lines found at other resorts. Slow down, and enjoy the breathtaking views, enjoy a cool beer or the famous barbequed turkey wings when you take a break from skiing. Located midway down the mountain is the iconic Buckhorn Bar and Grill.
Stay with us at the newly remodeled China Peak Inn. It’s charming and quaint, yet, quiet and funky. JW’s bar is the coolest place to unwind after a long day skiing fresh powder in China Bowl, schussing Juniper Face, or maybe your favorite runs are the long gentle and easy runs that are groomed to perfection.
The excitement doesn’t end when old man winter puts his ski boots away. Summers bring new activities galore.
The China Peak Inn, Restaurant and JW’s Original Bar will be open daily from July 1 to September 5. China Peak chairlifts will be offering scenic chair rides and lift-served mountain biking on weekends from July 2 to September 4.
Don’t dare miss the China Sun Music Series July 2nd and September 4th, featuring such artists as Elvin Bishop and Pablo Cruise.