It looks like they are planning to stay open.
"Before this year, the Great Divide's earliest opening date was on Halloween in 1998. After this weekend, it will remain open on weekends as long as the snow sticks around, and it typically stays open through April."
Story Published: Oct 16, 2009 at 6:15 PM MDT
Story Updated: Oct 16, 2009 at 11:39 PM MDT
Skiers eager to hit the slopes this season won't have to wait much longer, as one local ski area is getting ready a little early this year.
Those at the Great Divide Ski area, located just 23 miles north of Helena and 95 miles south of Great Falls, are preparing the slopes for the area's earliest opening date ever. Skiers will be able to use the slopes beginning October 17th.
The snow machines at the Great Divide Ski Area are being put to work earlier than usual this year. This because of a recent cold snap.
Kevin Taylor, owner, explains, "We built a little terrain park in here. We weren't intending to do this, but when the cold snap came last week we started making snow up higher on the mountain, but we got that job done and there was still a lot of cold weather so we said, 'What the heck, let's get this started early.'"
J.P. Stanek, mountain manager, says, "We saw -2 here on Sunday night, and we've been making snow like crazy."
The popular ski spot normally opens around Thanksgiving. To kick off the early season, skiers are invited to ski for free during the opening weekend.
Taylor says, "We're going to run the tow and have the park open from noon to five both Saturday and Sunday, and it doesn't cost anything to come out and do it. We will have a barbeque going on with burgers and beer and pop and candy bars, so if you want to buy some of that stuff, that's great. There'll be a sound system out here on the deck so it should be a good, on snow, October party."
Stanek adds, "We're going to have six features ranging from the most beginner feature you can have all the way to a 40-foot long round bar that is a really expert feature."
Gearing up the slopes this soon requires all hands on deck, but those at Great Divide say it's all worth it.
Stanek says, "We have to have at least one person on the hill, 24 hours a day, checking on the guns making sure nothing's freezing, nothing's broken, and then we have an additional three people in the daytime to come in and move all the snow guns, so it's a pretty in-depth process."
Taylor explains, "We hauled a bunch of our boxes and rails down here, and the guys are putting them in right now."
Stanek adds, "What we have, for this time of year, it's pretty exciting. I think everybody will be pumped about it."
Before this year, the Great Divide's earliest opening date was on Halloween in 1998. After this weekend, it will remain open on weekends as long as the snow sticks around, and it typically stays open through April.