It’s the best time of the year for Rockies skiers. Milder temperatures are here, there’s a solid base blanketing the hills, and spring is just around the corner. Now that you have your mid-season ski legs, maybe it’s time to challenge yourself a bit? March and April are the time to hike up to Delirium Dive at Sunshine Village and explore the massive (600 acres) cirque of chutes and cliffs. Of course, Fresh has all the gear you need to Do-The-Dive, so here’s the local knowledge to get you started.
What is Delirium Dive?
The Dive is a big, steep playground for expert skiers only. Cliffs, rocks and other hazards are not marked at all. Patrol carry out avalanche control work on a broad scale, but small terrain features can still produce small avalanches. Skiers needed to hike anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes to get to these descents. It’s a truly unique experience.
There are more people than ever hiking up to Delirium, but if you want a resort day with some adventure or you’re looking to practice your steep skiing and slough management, Delirium is the spot.
Jemma Capel in Bre-X.
What do you need?
Swing by Fresh to pick up an avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel. You’ll need all three, plus a partner with the same equipment, to get through the electronic gate and access The Dive.
What’s it like?
The experience begins with a hike. Find the gate beside the ski patrol shack at the top of the Great Divide Chair. The metal gate will only open if your beacon is transmitting.
Once at the peak, you can scope most of Delirium. Then you can either put your skis on to traverse the upper ridge to the intimidating Bre-X entrances or walk down the steel steps to the col and Delirium Proper. Most skiers will want to start with a run down Proper (the easiest, most direct line) and then scope other possibilities from below.
From the col, you can also start the longer Galaxy Ridge hike.
Line variations are only limited by creativity and ability, but here’s a rundown of some of our favourite lines:
Fresh’s Favourite Lines in Delirium Dive:
This is the easiest line, but you have to get to it first. Descending the steep metal stairs from the peak can be a bit intimidating, but the crux is finding a spot to put your skis on after them. If it’s too icy right away, you will have to walk/scratch your way down the ridge until you find a spot to click-in. From the lowest point on the ridge, the line starts as a mellow roll that maxes out around 38 degrees. At this point, you can see most of the 550-metre line below you. Let’m run and ski till your legs cramp.
*Make the stairs and the icy hike down safer with a pair of ski boots that have GripWalk like the Full Tilt CLAIM Limited Edition
From the peak, ski left down the ridge as far as possible. There will be a scraped-out, sideslip entrance waiting for you at the end. It’s usually not much fun for the first 10 metres, but then you are into a fantastic, steep face that has several options. Pick one of the ridges below you and rip it apart until you meet Dive Proper 100 metres below.
This is the Dive’s steepest and most technical line. Drop into the Bre-X entrance and cut hard left to get up on the first, high spine. Duck and follow some wires out to the end of the spine. The cables are bomb trams for avalanche explosives, but they also make a loose handrail. Pick your way through rocks down the left fall line. Stay right of the funnel as long as you can to avoid your sluff. At the central pillar, you’ll have to commit to the left and get into it. After three turns, you either cut right or drop the five-foot air to the open slope below. Feel free to catch your breath and pat yourself on the back here.
*Reliable edge hold is everything on lines this steep! A pair of Armada Tracer 108's should do the trick. Swing by Fresh to get those bases tuned and edges sharpened.
Where D. Proper and Upper Starbucks meet, traverse left as high as you can below the prominent rock buttress. Traverse left over two smaller entrances before getting to the main 10-metre wide slope that holds a continuous 45-degree pitch until it funnels between rocks and spits you out on the bottom of D. Proper, 200 metres below. (Do not traverse past the sharp ridge or vertical cornice beyond this slope! Nothing on skiers’ left of this ridge is ski-able without a 70-metre air, and there are no ropes or signs to stop you.)
With skis on or off, continue east along the ridge from D. Proper. The path will briefly take you on the backside of the ridge, then up again to a spot where it’s possible to scope the line. The entrance you are above starts with a traverse left over a cliff. After 10 metres, you need to make one solid turn (you are still above a small cliff, so don’t mess up!), then traverse right for 7 metres. From here, you can relax and enjoy the wide-open turns through what is often the best snow in the Dive.
Finding this entrance is the crux. Memorize the line from the peak, then hike the ridge until you think you are above it. If you are right, there will be a diagonal ramp that is a bit more than a ski length wide leading you left. Follow this ramp for about 8 metres, and you will finally be able to see the line. It doesn’t get skied as often, so you’ll probably have powder and be able to ski the upper slope fast. As you descend, the chute gets deeper and bowls into a funnel. If you’re skiing fast, it will be tough to slow down in time for the 4-metre wide pinch. That’s fine! You can point it straight from here to the flats below.
From Steel Pipe, you continue hiking Galaxy Ridge until finally, the cliffs below you end, and you can traverse out onto a mellow slope called Milky Way. Cut back left under the cliffs to catch the first chute. From here, you have a long, continuous, 350-foot fall line to rip with no obstacles to interrupt your groove.
FRESH Delirium stories:
In 1999, the winter The Dive opened, Export A cigarettes sponsored a big mountain contest in Delirium. It featured Hugo Harrison straight-lining the Galaxy Chutes and Friend-Of-Fresh, Eric Hjorleifson, throwing a backflip while forerunning the event. It also had the largest prize purse ever in freeskiing at the time, $5000. On top of that, competitors got all the free cigarettes they wanted. Ah, the good, old days!
Eric Hjorleifson throws a backflip near Delirium Dive. Pic: Dan Hudson
Another Friend-Of-Fresh, Chris Rubens, used to take the kids he coached into Delirium to teach the art of scoping and descending steep lines. He found that slightly shorter poles helped the athletes stay forward and attack the steeps, whereas longer poles led to swinging arms and a backseat stance. His favourite poles? The original Fresh poles, of course! The new XX version is pretty sweet, too, and we have them in any length you want to try.