Montana's [R160R, Great Divide] opened its terrain park in mid-October, inaugurating the earliest opening ever for the resort. The record had been Halloween, set in 1998. Unseasonably cold temperatures in early October allowed the resort to fire up its snowmaking guns early.

The sunny opening weekend Oct. 17 drew about 300 people each day in the Backyard Terrain Park, one of four parks at Great Divide. "People came from as far as Billings and Bozeman," owner Kevin Taylor told "The lift lines were huge and so were the lines at the top waiting to get on features."

The free Backyard rope tow ran to haul skiers and riders to play on the eight features in the park. "It was a really, really good little pocket park," added Taylor. Hip-hop music cranked up the party atmosphere with the smell of burgers cooking on the deck of the lodge.

Taylor plans to open the park again for one day every weekend with free riding on the rope tow as long as temperatures allow for snowmaking to freshen up the park. Meanwhile, his crews continue to amass snow in a second park in preparation for hosting the annual free Wildwood Rail Jam Nov. 7.

Great Divide used to open the Backyard rope tow early season for skiing, but when Taylor started opening with a terrain park only, crowds leapt in size. "It's a good way to get the vibe started for the season," he said. "People are just stoked."

The resort aims to open the Good Luck Chairlift Nov. 25.

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