A 36-year-old man died Friday afternoon while snowboarding at China Peak Mountain Resort, which reopened just hours earlier for the first time in weeks after being shut down due to a lack of snow.
The man, who has not been identified, was snowboarding with friends around noon away from prepared ski runs when he fell head-first into about 5 feet of fresh snow and suffocated when he couldn't free himself, said Tim Cohee, China Peak's managing partner and general manager.
"We feel absolutely terrible for his family and for his friends who were here unable to help him," Cohee said. "They were down below and couldn't get to him."
Cohee did not know where the victim was from, but said the snowboarder was a season pass holder. The Fresno County Sheriff's Office responded to the scene to investigate.
China Peak was prepared for a busy day as much-needed fresh snow fell this week allowing the resort to reopen. Cohee announced last month that China Peak would close because of unseasonably warm temperatures leading to no snow.
According to The Bee's archives, the last similar death at the resort happened in March 2012 when a 30-year-old Bass Lake man fell into deep snow while snowboarding and suffocated. Cohee said the last incident he remembers was in 2011 when the victim was riding alone.