We've been asking ourselves that familiar Thanksgiving question this past week: Where the hell is all the snow? October and November gave us a tasty preview of the coming ski season—pray-for-snow parties, strings of ski-film releases, an unexpectedly early season opener at Lookout Pass Nov. 13. But with a wave of upgrades in the works at choice mountains in western Montana, we're betting we aren't the only ones dying to carve some turns before Christmas.
Of course, some have hit the slopes already. Kevin Taylor, owner and general manager at Great Divide near Helena, estimates 1,000 skiers and snowboarders turned out for the area's Wildwood Rail Jam on Nov. 7. Great Divide has since opened two lifts, with access to mostly human-made snow.
Season prep at Great Divide started well before fall, Taylor says. Contractors and mountain personnel cleared large swaths of pine beetle kill over the summer. The project, which Taylor says cost a "bundle of dough" and threatened to put the area in "a world of hurt," opened up 200 acres of skiing off the summit. We envy the dude laying down maiden tracks in that pow.
Great Divide isn't the only snow sports venue boasting new terrain this year. News traveled fast among powder hounds about Discovery Ski Area's new triple chair serving roughly 400 acres off Rumsey Mountain. Co-owner Beatrice Pitcher says it will take two or three seasons to fully develop the new acreage. When finished, the expansion should add seven to eight runs. The new lift will open around Christmas, Pitcher says. But due to lack of snow, Discovery won't open on Thanksgiving weekend.
Missoula shredders can look forward to a few changes in their own backyard this season. Montana Snowbowl broke the news online that it has added two new intermediate runs off the LaVelle lift, just below Point 6.
And don't forget the experimental terrain park debuting whenever the snow sticks. The Indy got the skinny on University of Montana student Gregg Janecky's project in early November. A freestyle skier and 'boarder, Janecky told us he lamented the lack of proper jumps and rails in these parts. Shops like Edge of the World backed Janecky's proposal, and Snowbowl owner Brad Morris approved the move. Looks like steeps and deeps won't be the 'Bowl's only draws this year.
Now if only we could find a solution for the weather. If we pray any harder, we just might pull something.