Great Divide, MT, Mar. 26, 2023

Tony Crocker

Staff member
We decided to squeeze in Sunday at Great Divide as it’s one of those Montana areas not open every day of the week. Monday and Tuesday Great Divide is closed.


Sunday was a big day for snow in much of Montana. Flyover and his daughter enjoyed two feet new at Discovery, and Big Sky/ Bridger had accumulated 20 inches since Friday. The big winner was Red Lodge with 43 inches. Great Divide had a more modest 7 inches total over day and night Saturday. However, it’s primarily intermediate pitch, so it skied quite well. The intermediate pitch and primary east exposure also meant the majority of the mountain had a sun affected subsurface. But we were there at the right time with most of it well covered with new snow.

The skiing was good but the picture taking not so much. There was thick overcast all day with occasional snow flurries. We stated up the Belmont Chair and skied into Sunshine Bowl.

The scattered trees assist orientation in flat light.

While there were few tracks in Sunshine Bowl at 11:30 we moved on to the Wild West lift for a several runs as that area faces more northeast. We entered via Wild Acres.


Wild West liftline:


The short inflection where the fall line is steeper contains the runs Rogue, Draino and North Forty.

I pursuit of more consistent powder we skied a couple of runs far skier’s left in the Outlaw/Missing Lynx area.

We took a short lunch break.


None of those New Zealand nutcrackers allowed here!

After lunch I skied 3 runs on the Belmont chair. The first was far skier’s right near the trees for visibility. I couldn’t resist this trail marker.


I continued into the Lower Big Open to the Rawhide lift.


Next run I started down Treasure, which runs along a ridgeline. View south into area of my previous run:


View toward the base area:


I continued along the ridge, hoping to find a north facing drop through steeper trees. But the ridgeline became rougher and was interrupted by this abandoned mineshaft.


I got off the ridge for a short shot through the trees near the Mine Dumps.

I took a final run through Eldorado and Hard Luck, finishing with 15,100 vertical. This was about the same as at Pebble Creek a week earlier, but in almost 50% more time. Great Divide’s mellower pitch meant the slow chairs covered less vertical (1,200 or 1,300 vs. 1,900) in similar time. But that mellow pitch also meant that about half my turns were of the powder variety. :eusa-dance:

The large horizontal sprawl at Great Divide first reminded me of Pajarito. But Great Divide has more vertical and more variation in pitch. For late March powder Pajarito was better as it’s nearly all north facing and we almost never hit a crusty subsurface there. With Montana’s latitude and temperatures, I’m sure this was only an issue at Great Divide due to being late season.

Great Divide was area #276 for me and #211 for Liz.
Great Divide is one of the least TR'd ski areas in the west, I guess because it isn't near any other lift-served mountains: 2-ish hours to Missoula?

During the early 00s, I posted on Epicski about wanting to go there because it looked like a fun local's area with varied terrain -- which seems to be confirmed by this report -- and I liked the sound of "Rawhide Gulch." 20 years later, I still haven't skied in the state of Montana so who knows if or when I'll ever get there.

I assume that the red circles across the trail map are to indicate cat tracks that take you back to the base?

Great Divide was area #276 for me and #211 for Liz.
You're leaving me in the dust; I'm at 197.
Great Divide is the local area for Helena, about half an hour away. It's moderately out of the way when traveling on I-90. Outsiders are more likely to divert to Lost Trail for snow or Discovery for terrain.

The red circles show how low you can go if the Rawhide or Wild West lifts aren't running. I recommend visiting on a weekend in order to avoid that possibility.
Some Great Divide pics from Liz:

Base area:

Fold down chair restraints from the center pole:

Liz said she had never seen that before. I said yes she had, the single at Mad River Glen!

Low angle powder in Outlaw/Missing Lynx area:

Rear window stickers in Great Divide parking lot:
Fold down chair restraints from the center pole. Liz said she had never seen that before. I said yes she had, the single at Mad River Glen!
Yes, MRG and 20 years ago I recall a couple of the old Mueller double chairs at Sutton had them. I'm sure they've been replaced by now.

Here you can see them at Highmount, next door to Belleayre in the Catskills (more pix here). NY State has been threatening to annex Highmount for more than two decades now but it still hasn't happened and that chair is still there 40 years after Highmount closed! It was purchased from Jiminy Peak in the mid-70s.

Highmount 2.15.07 j.jpg

Tony's report confirms that Great Divide is a "James ski area;" however, it could be many moons before I actually get there.
The MRG single chair safety bars do not fold down and have never folded down. Instead they are connected to the foot rests and both face straight forward when open and rotate inward to close, so Liz may have been right.
Looks like a pretty decent area. The one time I was in Helena during summer, we were at a brewpub and talked to some Locals about it. They said it was a pretty fun place, and definitely off the radar for most... although, that was about 8 yrs ago.
The MRG single chair safety bars do not fold down and have never folded down. Instead they are connected to the foot rests and both face straight forward when open and rotate inward to close, so Liz may have been right.

That’s correct. The old Spruce Peak double at Stowe worked like that too. Fold them in! The safety bars extorted on the outer sides of the center bar.
Showdown MT is another interesting looking MT mountain, but it’s off I90 beaten path.
Showdown is presumably the local area for Great Falls, but still 67 miles from there. I suspect natural snowfall that far east of the continental divide is modest. Great Divide's "brochure quote" is 180 inches, which sounds about right. Showdown's "brochure quote" is 280, which I suspect is :bs:.