Wednesday, April 20, 2011

James Henry Hitson

Longtime Ketchum resident James "Jim" Henry Hitson, 91, died on April 11, 2011, of natural causes at Safe Haven eldercare facility in Bellevue, Idaho.

Jim was born in North Dakota on May 10, 1919, to Henry and Carrie Hitson, one of five children. He enlisted in the Navy shortly after the onset of World War II and first glimpsed the Wood River Valley during the war when the Sun Valley Lodge was temporarily converted to a naval hospital. His family moved to Great Falls, Mont., in 1943 and Jim joined them there after his discharge from the service.

Jim was always involved in skiing, first in North Dakota as a jumper. He continued to do this around the West. He was an early member of the Great Falls Ski Club when it was based in the warming hut at the top of Bovey Slope and forged the 4-foot hinges for the lodge at what is now Ski Showdown Resort. In the late 1940s, Jim moved to Big Mountain at Whitefish, Mont., where he began his long career as a ski instructor. In 1951 he moved to Ketchum and joined the Sun Valley Ski Patrol and later the Ski School. He enjoyed working for Sun Valley Co. and its predecessors, the Union Pacific Railroad and the Janss Corp., into his late 80s.

Jim was active with the American Legion and was a popular participant in Wagon Days dressed as a Mountain Man. Being knowledgeable about regional history and an excellent showman, he also participated in shoot-outs and rendezvous, and earned a part in the movie "Pale Rider." While winters were spent on the mountain (skiing), Jim spent many summers traveling America as a truck driver. He also worked hard to get valley aluminum cans recycled, donating all the proceeds to charity. He was a friend to many.

Jim is survived by a brother, Morris, of Southern Pines, N.C., and a sister, Mildred of Great Falls, Mont.

A memorial service will be held Thursday, April 21, at 4 p.m. at the American Legion Hall, Post 115, 220 Cottonwood St. in Ketchum. In lieu of flowers, please bring some food and stories to share with Jim's friends and family at the service.

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