There are few skiers and snowboarders who regularly spend time at Alta and Snowbird who do not want to ski Mt. Superior’s south face in Little Cottonwood Canyon of Utah. It is an iconic line in an iconic place. Skiing down the runs at either Alta or Snowbird, it is hard not to look at such a large, continuous, and beautiful mountain face that is just beckoning to be skied. It is often a right of passage for skiers and snowboarders in the Wasatch to ski Mt. Superior. Looking at it from the resort, learning the intricacies of backountry skiing, and then finding the right day to go do it all culminate in a fairly wonderful, coming of age kind of experience for somebody skiing Superior for their first time. Here’s a bunch of information on how to do it. Make sure to check the UAC avalanche forecast, weather forecast, and know be proficient in backcountry snow travel and rescue techniques before skiing Superior.
For a seasoned backcountry skier or splitboarder, this might be the hardest part of the whole day. With Little Cottonwood Canyon being ridiculously popular, there are now parking reservations needed to park anywhere near the trailhead for Mt. Superior. Look up the latest and greatest parking information here at AltaParking.com
If planning to ski Mt. Superior’s south face in Little Cottonwood Canyon on a non-parking reservation day (most weekdays, excluding holidays), then just drive up and park at the Flagstaff trailhead. It can be found by looking up Our Lady of the Snows and then parking just to the east of it, between the Alta Lodge and the Rustler Lodge. Put your boots on and walk north to the snow.
Getting to Cardiff Pass
Cardiff Pass is the low point between Cardiff Fork in Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood. It is a well known waypoint for backcountry skiers and snowboarders and is very easy to find. There is often a well beat out skin track from the parking lot that generally trends north west to Cardiff Pass. Power lines go over the pass, so if breaking trail, generally follow the power lines. There is a weather station on top of the ridge to the west of the pass and the weather readings can be found here.
Cardiff Pass to the summit
It is likely that there is a well established skintrack that turns into a bookpack from Cardiff Pass heading east to the summit. Following the ridge is fairly straightforward from a navigation standpoint, but snow levels can demand a variety of techniques. There are two sections where descending while in skinning mode is the generally accepted. This can be tricky and dangerous if conditions are icy or sliding downhill in uphill mode is new.
In deep years, it is possible to skin the entire way to the summit. In leaner (most) years, there is a very little bit of rock scrambling with a bit of exposure, and it can feel a bit scary. Some people bring an ice axe for extra security on the bootpack and other people bring crampons if there are icy conditions.
Based on the snow levels, the exact route may vary. The most travelled one is to trend to skier’s right off the summit, then down a chute to a prominence and follow another chute down to skier’s left. After the large broad section, trend left again to navigate around the cliff band.
If there is more snow, a variety of routes through the cliff bands open up. For those with extraordinary courage and strong legs, the possibilities are endless
The South Face gets sun early and it is strong. Sometimes it only takes a day for a thing crust to form, and skiing it in pristine powder conditions is sought out by many. Totally fresh tracks are a rare gift.
Skiing right to the road is pretty great. Little Cottonwood Canyon is a dead end, and it is common to hitch hike the mile from the bottom of Superior to the Cardiff trailhead. If you want to meet up with friends at Snowbird to tell them about what you just did, slide down the side of the road a little bit, cross the street, and ski down Chickadee.
If it’s right back to the car or a few laps at Alta and Snowbird, make sure to celebrate a bit. Dive into the Little Cottonwood Canyon Apres ski scene or get a big pile of nachos to cap a good day off! reach out to Ben at White Cloud Concierge if you have more questions on how to ski Mt. Superior’s south face in Little Cottonwood Canyon.
Learn about other winter outdoor recreation options to enjoy during the snowy months in Salt Lake City!