With 7 inches of fresh powder and plenty more on the way Friday afternoon, Great Divide Ski Area is gearing up for what should be a New Year's weekend to remember. 

A highlight of the holiday weekend will be the 28th annual New Year's Eve torchlight parade and fireworks. Open skiing will continue until 6 p.m. Sunday, then the public can join in the parade of skiers carrying road flares down the mountain to create a stream of burning light. A fireworks show will be held afterward. 

“It’s great viewing from the deck,” owner Kevin Taylor said. 

The whole party ends by 8 p.m., so “everyone can be safely back home early,” he added. 

Located about 30 miles northwest of Helena in Marysville, Great Divide opened on Nov. 11 this year, which was its earliest opening ever. 

Despite its 10-inch base and 7 inches of fresh powder Friday afternoon, the ski area has relied on snow-making to keep the lower hill skiable for much of the season.

Great Divide has modernized its snow-making system over the last few months with help from a state grant. The snow-making infrastructure was built in 1987, so the changes are bringing the ski area into the modern age. 

Taylor said the new infrastructure has “paid off significantly.”

“The newer tech is more efficient, less maintenance,” Taylor said. It was the whole system, “not just guns, hydrants -- cooling systems as well.”

Taylor said Great Divide gets between 180 and 200 inches of snow per year.

The ski area had 12,000 visits in 2016, and Taylor hopes those people will come again.

Great Divide opens at 9:30 a.m. every day through Jan. 1. The lifts will close at 4 p.m. Saturday and Monday, and at 6 p.m. on Sunday. 

From Jan. 3 to March 10, the ski area will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays, and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. 

Visit skigd.com for information on events and specials. 

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Reporter at the Helena Independent Record.

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