Friday, March 20, 2015

Delirium Dive

Trip Date: March 2015

Delirium Dive is located at Sunshine Mountain Village Resort, which I wrote about in a previous post that you can read right here.  Although I've snowboarded at Sunshine on numerous occasions I've never been in The Dive before and that's because it's considered an off-piste freeride zone, meaning there are special restrictions for accessing that part of the mountain.  Those restrictions include being an advanced skier or snowboarder, riding with at least one other person, and each member of your party must possess avalanche gear (a beacon, a shovel, and a probe).  Delirium Dive officially opened to the public in 1998.  Although the area is technically in-bounds and is included in the Snow Safety Team's extensive avalanche control program, the area can be prone to slides in certain weather conditions.  That is why avalanche gear is required for access and the entire area can be closed at any time due to avalanche hazard, weather, visibility, temperature, or slope conditions.

A map of Sunshine Village that highlights Delirium Dive
Another map of Sunshine, but this one focuses more on Lookout Mountain
In early March, on a beautiful sunny day, a co-worker (Peter) and I headed to Sunshine with the intention of riding The Dive.  Peter had been there on previous trips, but as I mentioned before, it would be my first time.  We arrived early and did a few warm-up laps through Bye Bye Bowl, off the The Great Divide Express chair, while waiting for The Dive to officially open.  Just after 10am we got word from a friendly lift attendant that Delirium Dive had been opened for the day.  We caught the next chair and headed straight for the summit of Lookout Mountain.  

Access to The Dive requires passing through a security check-point that ensures each person is wearing an avalanche beacon.  The gate will not open if your not wearing a beacon or it isn't turned on.  Once through the gate there's a short climb to the summit where the immensity of The Dive comes into focus!

The access gate for Delirium Dive
My first view of The Dive from the summit of Lookout Mountain
Once at the summit you can drop into the freeride zone via Bre X, but we opted to take the stairs down to Galaxy Ridge and enter The Dive through Delirium Proper, which is a little more tame.  The stairs are actually a steel staircase that drops down a rocky cliff.  Once at the bottom you can navigate the short distance to the drop-in point with the help of a rope guardrail.  

Descending the steel stairs.  You can see the rope guardrail on the right side of the ridge.
Looking back up towards the summit.  Here you can see the rope (left) and the staircase.
My first trip through Delirium Dive was a bit nerve wracking, to say the least.  The first five to ten turns were on hard packed snow, so my confidence level was a little shaky, but after that the snow softened up and the riding was much better.  Both of us took it pretty slow because none of the natural hazards (ie: cliffs!!) are marked, as they would be throughout the rest of the resort.  We picked our lines carefully and were slow and methodical during our descent.  

Peter riding in The Dive
Looking towards the Milky Way inside Delirium Dive.  We didn't make it far enough along Galaxy Ridge to access that terrain.
Looking back up towards the summit of Lookout Mountain.  We came down the left side of this photo.
We ended up having a great day.  The visibility was better than either of us had expected and the snow was decently soft.  The best snow, by far, was lower in The Dive when we entered the Sugar Bowl and made our way through Sweet & Low.  Both areas were sun exposed, which had really softened the snow for us.  We did three or four laps of The Dive before finishing the day with a few cruisy laps off the Wawa chair.  

Looking back towards Delirium Dive after our exit
Peter and I with The Dive in the background
After experiencing Delirium Dive for the first time, it's easy to see why the Sydney Morning Herald calls it one of the ten best off-piste destinations in the world!  I was hooked after my first Dive experience and can't wait for my next day out!  Hopefully we'll be able to explore more of the freeride zone and see what the other areas have to offer.