Tim Cohee says he isn't jealous, even though six Lake Tahoe-area ski resorts will have lifts operating this weekend while China Peak postponed its opener until Nov. 23 because of marginal snow conditions.
"We want to be open," said Cohee, who purchased the Huntington Lake resort in May 2010 for $3.8 million. "There's no ski area in the world that doesn't want to be open as soon as possible. But it's still really early."
China Peak has recorded 16 to 20 inches of snowfall this season and supplements that with snowmaking.
However, evening temperatures near or above freezing earlier this week hampered those efforts.
Cohee had planned to have the base area and a couple surface lifts open Saturday, but he decided Tuesday morning to have snowmaking crews concentrate their efforts on the upper mountain.
"The bottom line is for the amount of work we had to go through to open a 400-foot slope is not worth it, especially with weather coming in," Cohee said.
"We'd rather spend our time and use our manpower to get more of the mountain open for Thanksgiving weekend."
A 30% chance of rain and snow is forecast for the Huntington Lake area Friday through Sunday.
Although temperatures probably won't be cold enough to produce dry powder, Cohee said a wet storm is actually preferable.
"It's not about powder at this point, it's about getting a good base," he said.
Even if the storm fizzles, China Peak aims to have Chair 6 open next weekend servicing Sundown, a mile-long intermediate run. The base area and a couple of terrain park features should also be ready to go.
China Peak has snowmaking on 40% of its runs but can't make snow on all of them simultaneously. Its water-pumping capacity of 1,000 gallons per minute is a fraction of some of California's larger resorts.
Heavenly and Northstar opened Wednesday, while Mammoth Mountain and Boreal already have lifts operating. Kirkwood and Squaw Valley open Friday, while Sugar Bowl is opening Saturday.
Even though it's the longest drive, Mammoth Mountain is the best bet for skiers and boarders who can't wait to carve turns. The eastern Sierra resort has six lifts operating and more than two dozen runs open with a base of 12 to 18 inches.
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