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From left, Brian Froiland, Joe Hilber, Zach Shepard and Aidan Long ascend Bald Mountain on the first chairlift of the 2019-20 winter season.

Joe Hilber wrapped up his shift at midnight Thanksgiving morning, and got to sleep an hour later. Call it a nap: With a 4:45 a.m. alarm, he had plans to be at the base of Bald Mountain by 5:30 a.m., three and a half hours before the first chairlift of Sun Valley’s 84th season.

There, he met an old friend—snow, long sought, falling in steady showers to formally turn fall into winter before the first turkey was carved.

A strong contingent followed, according to Sun Valley Resort spokeswoman Kelli Lusk. Skier counts topped the roughly 2,000 that christened the season last year, Lusk said, with the first 450 earning free mugs of hot cocoa for their early-up efforts.

At 9 a.m., Hilber joined Brian Froiland, Zach Shepard and Aidan Long for the first ride out of River Run.

Some 20 inches of snow made for a better scene—and better skiing—than the start of 2018. Hilber caught the first chair last Thanksgiving, too, and carved up the manmade white ribbon set between the fallen leaves.

But good or bad, if there’s one day the conditions don’t matter, it’s the first.

“I’m just happy to be back on snow,” Hilber said.

Three chairlifts and several runs on the River Run side of the mountain were open Tuesday, with more to come, according to Sun Valley. Lusk said she expects the Warm Springs side of the ski area to open this weekend. Dollar Mountain is scheduled to open Dec. 13.

Email the writer: mdee@mtexpress.com

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