18-11-28 first chair 2

Joe Hilber, left, Tre Black, Lukas Taylor and JoAnn Levy celebrate catching the season’s first chair up Bald Mountain on Thursday, Nov. 22. “It’s something I’ve tried to get for a long time,” said Black, who lined up four hours early just to make sure.

Tre Black set down his skis at 5 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning, almost two hours before the sun rose on Sun Valley’s 83rd winter season.

Black and his buddy formed the year’s first lift line at the River Run quad—four hours early—and, as a reward, got the first chair up Bald Mountain.

“We were in it for the long haul,” said Black, who, in his zeal, parked at the base two hours before the third and fourth guests arrived to fill the inaugural foursome. “It was a cool experience—I felt like I got a little extra speed on everyone else.”

Some 1,999 more skiers and riders followed Black’s lead last Thursday, as the resort opened both Baldy and Dollar Mountain for the season, according to Sun Valley Resort spokeswoman Kelli Lusk.

In return, Sun Valley gave them the white Thanksgiving weekend they were dreaming of, painting a top-to-bottom path of manmade snow down Bald Mountain. Mother Nature held up her end on Friday and Saturday, dropping some 8 inches of fresh snow atop the base crews had been cranking out for nearly a month.

The machine-made stuff was enough to start the River Run lifts spinning on Thanksgiving itself. River Run, Lookout Express and the Roundhouse Gondola kicked off the year, opening up a lap of almost 3,300 vertical feet.

“It was busy,” Black said. “But you do it because you want to get back on your skis, not because of what’s open up there.”

For beginners, the resort opened the Kinderspielplatz at the base of Baldy, as well as Quarter Dollar and The Accelerator magic carpet on Dollar.

“Things went very well for us,” Lusk said. “The fact that we had Baldy, Dollar and the gondola open, that was a fantastic start.”

Dollar shut down after Sunday to continue to prep the hill for the season; Lusk said the resort plans to open it back up on Dec. 8. The gondola is also closed this week, with a scheduled reopening to coincide with the Roundhouse restaurant on Dec. 7. (Mountain staff may choose to reopen the gondola sooner, if conditions cooperate, Lusk said.)

In the meantime, the River Run side of the mountain remains open. As of Tuesday morning, three lifts—River Run, Lookout Express and Christmas—as well as the Kinderspielplatz—were open, serving 11 runs, including cat tracks and the bunny hill.

Depending on the weather, the resort aims to open the Challenger and Greyhawk lifts on the Warm Springs side of the mountain on Dec. 14, Lusk said.

The plan, Lusk said, is to have skiing on the north side of Baldy when the Warm Springs Lodge reopens its doors on Saturday, Dec. 15—less than eight months after it was gutted by an overnight fire.

That will be a busy day for Sun Valley. In addition to unveiling the lodge, it will also host its annual tree lighting up the road at the resort, and debut the remodeled Sun Valley Inn with a public reception.

As for the skiing? Check Sun Valley’s online mountain report for the latest conditions, and pray for snow.

“We can aim to open certain things on certain dates, but it all depends on the weather,” Lusk said. “So far, so good.”

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