The driver of the articulated truck lost control on a downhill stretch of motorway in the city of Lanzhou and crashed into the line of 31 vehicles.
As well as those killed, authorities said 44 people were hurt including 10 who suffered serious injuries.
The lorry crashed into a line of vehicles waiting at a toll booth
The truck driver is being investigated by police.
Media reports say it was the first time the driver had driven on the stretch of road.
State broadcaster CCTV aired video from the scene showing heavy snow and many crippled and twisted vehicles.
Fatal road accidents are common in China where traffic regulations are often flouted or not enforced.
Last week a scuffle between a bus driver and a passenger caused a bus to plunge from a bridge into a river in southwest China, killing all 15 people on board.
Official statistics show that 58,000 people were killed in accidents across the country in 2015 alone
Drivers flouting traffic laws were blamed for almost 90% of accidents that caused deaths or injuries that year.