When it opened in 1999, Delirium Dive was the first of its kind. A big, steep playground for experts only, where individuals were expected to shoulder some of the responsibility for themselves. Cliffs, rocks and other hazards were not marked. Patrol carried out avalanche control work on a broad scale, but small terrain features could still produce small avalanches. Skiers had to carry avalanche transceivers, probes, and shovels, and they had to ski with a partner. To get to these descents, skiers needed to hike anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes. It was a unique approach to opening new terrain at the time. Now, over 20 years later, none of that has changed, and it’s still entirely unique.
With skiers and ski gear continuing to progress, there are more people than ever hiking up to Delirium. Still, if you want a resort day with some adventure or you’re looking to practice your steep skiing and slough management, Delirium is still the spot to go.
The Dive experience begins with a hike. Find the well-marked gate beside the ski patrol shack at the top of the Great Divide Chair. This is the spot to double-check that your crew all have their avalanche gear. In fact, the metal gate will only open if your beacon is transmitting.
Once at the peak, you can scope most of Delirium’s 600 acres. 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.
Colin Puskas in Delirium. Shot by Dan Hudson
From the col, you can also start the longer Galaxy Ridge hike.
Either direction offers variations that are only limited by creativity and ability, but here’s a rundown of some of our favourite lines:
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 spot on the ridge, the line starts as a mellow roll over 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.
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 up with D. 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.
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 back 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.
This isn’t really a part of Delirium or a marked run at all, but if you want to see how gnarly you can get at Sunshine, check out Rocket Pocket (viewable from Goat’s Eye Mountain). It starts with fun turns that keep tightening until you have to point it over the ice at the end of the upper chute. The air is no more than 3 metres, but do not even think about falling. You need to cut right into a steep funnel that spits you off a 6-metre cliff and into the chute below. From here, the turns are fast and fun to the bowl below. Note: different closer in Milky Way or Cream often make it impossible to get to Rocket Pocket.
The trees below Delirium offer a few powder stashes. Reuben Krabbe / SkiBig3
Legends of Delirium
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 Eric Hjorleifson throwing a backflip while forerunning. It also had the biggest prize purse of ever in freeskiing at the time, $5000. On top of that, competitors got all the free cigarettes they wanted. Ah, the good, old days!
Back in the ’70s, before anyone even thought about opening up terrain like this and Delirium was still backcountry terrain, wild locals would hike up here and use an old rope to lower themselves over the 20-30 foot cliff at the top. Now that there are stairs and the cornice is controlled, there are more options for skiers, but none as cool as the old rope was.
“Trapper” Jerry Kernan skied the Dive on his birthday, Feb. 14, every year that it was open. He was the oldest person ever to ski the Dive when he did it on his 90th birthday. He broke that record every year for the next five years. We believe Jerry was 95 years old when he last skied Delirium.
Rowan Harper was the Snow Safety Supervisor and Head Avalanche Forecaster when Delirium opened. His vision and direction also saw Sunshine open two other Freeride zones, the Wild West and Silver City. The unique couloirs of Wild West, off Goat’s Eye Mountain, are still a great adventure when they’re open, but Silver City has returned to a permanent avalanche closure. In the end, the progression of opening ever gnarlier terrain to the public had to find its endpoint, and it did with the terrifying Silver City. But that’s a story for another day.