Amid the sounds of snow plows, sliding shovels and cursing motorists, not everyone heard it, but it was there: a collective sigh of relief.
It came from the managers of Sun Valley Resort. It came from business owners throughout the Wood River Valley. And it came from just about anyone who has looked forward to skiing or snowboarding in the Ketchum area this winter.
After predominantly dry weather conditions prevailed in November and the first few days of December, two successive winter storms this week dropped nearly three feet of snow on mountain peaks surrounding Sun Valley.
Early Thursday morning, Sun Valley Resort reported that a total of 33 inches of white powder had fallen on Bald Mountain. Snow continued to fall in the northern Wood River Valley late Thursday morning and is predicted to continue intermittently into the weekend.
"It's great for everybody," said Rob Santa, owner of Sturtevants Mountain Sports in Ketchum. "We're super psyched now."
Santa said Sturtevants this week suddenly saw increased interest in skiwear and specialty powder skis, but stressed that the new snow has greater ramifications than simply providing a few days of powder skiing.
"It's rather crucial to ensuring the success of the Christmas season, and I'm rather thankful we got it," he said. "We've gone from a situation that was rather frightening to what is now a winter wonderland."
Bald Mountain, Sun Valley Resort's primary ski mountain, opened on Thanksgiving Day with only one lift in operation and one ski run open. In recent weeks, a lack of snow predicated that skiing was generally limited to areas served by the resort's large-scale snowmaking system.
On Thursday, the resort reported Baldy had a snow base of 56 inches at the summit, with 48 ski runs being served by five different lifts.
Jack Sibbach, Sun Valley Resort director of marketing and public relations, said the snowfall will certainly enhance the resort's marketing efforts.
"This enables us to get the whole mountain open for Christmas, which is important for the ski season," Sibbach said. "It's a nice gift for the economy of the valley, that's for sure."
Sibbach said more lifts and runs on Bald Mountain could be opened in the near future. Dollar Mountain and the new Dollar Mountain Lodge will open on Friday, Dec. 17, he said, and the resort's Nordic-skiing facilities will open Saturday, Dec. 11.
Santa said the early-season snowfall will likely have a profound effect on the confidence of tourism-dependent merchants. He recalled years past when a lack of snow allowed him to go mountain biking on Christmas Day.
"I've been doing this a long time, and I'm not sure your skin ever grows so thick that you're not worried," he said.
For an up-to-date report on ski conditions on Baldy, call (800) 635-4150 or visit www.sunvalley.com on the Internet.