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Great Divide making improvements over summer months

Great Divide making upgrades the the mountain
Posted at 10:55 AM, Sep 05, 2023

GREAT DIVIDE — For a ski mountain in the off-season, some may think it's quiet and relaxed, but not for Great Divide, they're still staying busy and have a lot going on.

It's a different kind of busy for Great Divide. Instead of grooming trails and running lifts on powder days, the mountain is undergoing repairs and focusing on needed upgrades and improvements for the season ahead.

"It is purely project-focused all summer long, so from when we come back at that first week in June, basically until the snow flies, we have anywhere from 10 to 15 full-time employees that are working 40 hours a week nonstop, just working to get this area up and going," said Travis Crawford, one of the owners of Great Divide Ski Area.

Crawford mentioned that each year they undergo preventative maintenance projects to make sure everything is smooth for the ski season.

So far this off-season, they've been focusing on three major projects.

They added a brand-new haul rope for their Meadow Mountain chair lift.

They replaced a diesel-driven engine with an electric motor for their Wild West lift.

For their big project, they have been constructing a brand-new ski patrol clinic, replacing their previous building.

"The old patrol clinic was brought in, I believe, in the 1960s and then pretty much been the same ever since. Well, from 1960 to now, the ski area has grown quite a bit. So our needs have changed and involved in this is going to give us a building to have a lot of growth and be able to really evolve with for quite a while," said Crawford.

Peter Strauss, a member of the Great Divide Ski Patrol Foundation, says the new building was greatly needed.

It will have ski and toboggan access, so the mountain ski patrol can quickly transfer patients from the mountain to the clinic, as well as have same-level ambulance access so they can rapidly transfer seriously injured patients off the mountain.

Everyone working on this major project is doing it on their own time.

"All the ski patrollers are volunteers. We're all from the Helena area. We know what it's like to be here. This is a community location. It's a community effort. We're happy to do this. And all the folks that built the building are volunteers," said Strauss.

With all the time and effort put in by all those involved, the ski patrol is extremely grateful for all the support.

"We've got tremendous support," said Strauss, "Ace Roofing is the name sponsor for the building, Helena Orthopedic Clinic, St. Pete's [St. Peter's Health] American Chemet, Valley Bank. All sorts of businesses came out of the woodwork and said, we want to help keep fun safe on the hill."