Montana’s Great Divide announced on Friday plans to construct new chairlifts in 2020 and 2022. The first one, dubbed Summit Shuttle, will load at the bottom of the Hiballer run and unload above the Mt. Belmont double‘s top terminal. This will extend Great Divide’s vertical from the true summit of 7,330’. The reasons for Summit Shuttle are four fold: allow skiers to lap the upper mountain without having to return to the base area, add lift capacity for peak days, provide maintenance redundancy and quicken access to Way Out West trails.
In three years, the mountain plans to add a second new lift in terrain known as Tall Timbers south of Rawhide Gulch. Part of this zone will open this winter and it will eventually encompass more than 150 acres. Egress to the base area will be via the existing Rawhide Gulch double. Components for both new lifts are already on site with engineering underway. Great Divide operates a quirky mix of entirely used Mueller and Riblet lifts from other mountains and these are likely to be similar.
In this era of consolidating ownership, it’s fantastic to see a family run, community ski area like Great Divide flourishing and expanding. The 1,600 acre mountain offered the longest season in Montana last year and a walk-up, peak period lift tickets cost $48.
What is the purpose of the Summit Shuttle chair? All they are doing is adding a lift above the base, to the top of the mountain. They say the want to increase capacity, but wouldn’t replacing the Mt. Belmont lift with a quad (2,000/hr) that goes to the top of the of the mountain be better? I think a lift as old as Mt. Belmont has lots of maintenance costs and high hours on it. If they don’t want skiers to return to the base area as much, they could construct a mid-station. To make the mid-station lines smaller, every 3rd chair they’d not let anyone load at the base of the mountain and let it get loaded at the mid station.
Maybe they could save costs on a lift by using the current Mt. Belmont lift as the Tall Timbers lift. Thoughts?
Stretching a lift up above the current 7,200′ top to the 7,330′ summit might be worthwhile enough on its own, but they might be concerned about overcrowding or wind closures on the exposed summit. Or maybe just trying to expand/improve while sticking with their shoestring budget.
Is Great Divide still up for sale, too, at the same time they’re aiming to make these improvements?
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I heard back from Great Divide with more details. Both lifts will be built using parts from Bridger Bowl’s Virginia City double. This lift was originally slated to become Chair 6 at Mt. Spokane. Great Divide obtained other parts from Washington State as well.
Here’s a map: