In Your Backyard - China Peak
In this edition of "In Your Backyard," FOX26 Sports Anchor Nick King is skiing at China Peak Mountain Resort. Just a 90 minute drive from Fresno, sitting high above Huntington Lake, China Peak is the Central Valley's local ski resort. Don't confuse 'local' with 'little,' though - China Peak boasts 11 lifts, 45 runs, 3 terrain parks, and opportunities you can't find anywhere else in California.
One example is China Peak's 'Ski with Nick' program. Nick Cohee is the mountain's new ski director, after traveling around the world the last decade as a collegiate and professional ski racer. Cohee's talents took him to the Canadian Rockies, Quebec, Mt. St. Anne, Mt. Tremblant, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, France, Italy and New Zealand. But now, he's skiing Sierra style. The first Saturday of each month, Cohee leads that unique program, 'Ski with Nick.' It's part-instructional, part-storytime, and specifically for intermediate to advanced skiers looking to take that next step in technique and ability.
Cohee says, "There's no product like it in the state of California. I put my ski racing hat on and my ski racing eye, and I say, 'ok, ok, we could work a little bit on your ankle flexion, and a little bit more forward in your hands'; with a lot of skiers, a lot of times they're a little bit more lax and when you do that you kind of sit and you're in this back seat position...whereas in skiing you really want to be on the aggressive side, on the attack."
Another very unique and wonderful program at China Peak is run by the Central California Adaptive Sports Center. You'll find their trailer at the bottom of the mountain, but their specialized instructors take skiers with disabilities to the top - when they're ready, of course.
Randy Coffman is the program's director, and three years after founding the center, says, "[People] come up here thinking, welllll, maybe I'll try that, and hold back a little bit. We introduce them through what we call progressions, and ease them into the activities. We call it challenge by choice. But all in all, most of the time people will never realize that they'd be doing the things we do."
The Central California Adaptive Sports Center has specialized equipment like sit-ski's, for people who can't stand, and also lead blind skiers down the mountain via helmets with two-way communication. Coffman also estimates 70% of their participants are military veterans. Some of the veterans may need the specialized equipment, but for many, it's simply about mental health, and exposure to a positive atmosphere.
Steve Martinez of Visalia's 'A Combat Veteran's Hope,' says "When they come home they don't really have a whole lot to do. You get them out of the house, get the blood flowing and they kind of remember, 'oh, yeah, this is what the world looks like. We're just a bunch of combat veterans trying to figure out things to do. And they help us figure things out. As far as I'm concerned, they're aces in my book."
China Peak is staying open until April 23rd, 2017, and season passes are already on sale for next winter.