Great Divide Ski Area
Great Divide is a large ski resort located just north of Helena. This 1600 acre playground is divided into three faces, Rawhide Gulch, Mount Belmont, and the Wild West. There are six lifts that ferry skiers all over the mountain. Five doubles and one tow make sure that there’s never a wait to get back to the top of your favorite run. There are 110 named runs and six terrain parks across the mountain for your skiing pleasure. Be warned, however; Great Divide is definitely skewed toward the intermediate to expert skier with a full 90 percent of the mountain covered in blue and black. That isn’t to say that novices won’t have a great time. There’s a dedicated beginners area at the base and some of the intermediates are very forgiving.
If you’re a skier with some mileage under their belt, you’re going to find a lot to like at Great Divide. After getting warmed up, take the Mount Belmont Double up 1300 feet to the top. From there, the mountain is open. Head to the left to hit the Wild West face, home to all the glades and steeps a skier could ever want. If open bowls and tree-lined steeps are more to your liking, head to the right and hit up Rawhide. Whether you’re playing around on the intermediate Sunshine Bowl or heading deeper to the Lower Big Open, you’re going to have a ball. Getting back to the peak involves a little work, however. You need to either take the Rawhide double lift and ski down the intermediate Hollow, or take the Red Tail Trail back to the base. From there, it’s back up the Belmont lift to the peak.
For the truly adventurous, there are several runs that border on the double diamond. One of the best lines runs right along the ridge between Belmont and Rawhide. Aim for Dago Face from the peak. This will take you through the Drifts, a challenging glade. From there, you can hit the Dark Forest, a wicked steep and hit a great glade series with lots of drops and jumps or ride the ridge along Snaggletooth. Snaggletooth is a little more forgiving and the view of the rest of the mountain may distract you a bit. Don’t fall prey to that, as you’ve got a fun drop into the Miner’s Basin glade before a sedate (relatively) ride back to the base along Red Tail.
For beginners, stick to the Meadow Mountain and Good Luck tows. Even though it’s a small percentage of terrain, there is still a lot to play around with. You’ll be surprised at the number of lines and paths you can find between the trees. Just be wary of the Outback. It’s an expert rated glade located in between Broadway and Boomerang. Stick to the marked trails, however, and you’ll be fine.
Great Divide has a really fun après ski scene. The Missing Lynx Saloon has live music every Friday night and the crowd is always friendly. There are always weekly events to participate in, with the infamous SnoRodeo taking place in the late season. If you make it to the SnoRodeo, make sure to watch (or sign up for) the hilarious Ski Boot Dance contest.
Food at Great Divide is the usual casual cafeteria fare or a sit down affair at the Missing Lynx. The cafeteria has a great chili that is a local-favorite and the cheezy-fries are a great way to end the day. For a relaxing lunch, head out onto the deck and crowd-watch as you enjoy a great microbrew or bottled wine.
For a great view away from the regular crowd, head up to the peak and relax on the deck at the Wild West Cabin. Take a load off, warm up, and grab a bite to eat while enjoying one of the best views in Montana. Unfortunately the Cabin is only open on the weekends, so if you’re there, make sure to take a seat on one of the benches on the deck.