Mount Superior in Little Cottonwood Canyon is one of the most recognized and iconic peaks in the Wasatch. Its south face is among the "50 Classic Ski Descents in North America," a guide written by Chris Davenport, Penn Newhard, and Art Burrows. Its striking image was even used as the cover photo for Denver’s 1976 Olympic bid packets.
To skiers at Alta and Snowbird, Superior towers overhead and looks almost too steep to ski. Closer inspection reveals the south face to be mostly in the 30- to 40-degree range with a few cliff bands to navigate, making it still rather spicy. This is also complex avalanche terrain that falls directly to the highway, so bear in mind that skiing this face in marginal conditions can also put others at risk. From the summit, Superior’s northeast face descending into Cardiac Bowl is also a classic and sought-after line.
For skiers lacking the time or inclination to climb and ski the full 3,000 feet of Superior’s south face, Little Superior (10,489 feet) makes a fine alternate line. The terrain here is still steep with significant avalanche danger, but it is not quite as complex as the line from the true summit. This prominent buttress on the east ridge of Mount Superior bears excellent steep lines on the north (dropping into Cardiff Fork) as well as the south (ending at the highway). From the town of Alta, pass Our Lady of the Snows Church and follow the old four-wheel-drive road. Continue up and northwest toward Cardiff Pass (also known as Pole Line Pass). From Cardiff Pass, climb the ridge west toward Superior. You can save a few feet of climbing by traversing around the high point of Cardiff Peak. Continue climbing the ridge, possibly bootpacking to reach the summit of Little Superior. Depending on the snowpack, it may be possible to skin nearly all the way to the summit of Mount Superior, although the final quarter of the ascent is usually done sans skis.
From Little Superior, the line to the south follows a prominent ridge. Stay out of the slight gully to skier’s left, which terminates in a cliff band. As you approach a few scattered trees, the angle eases back a bit, and the skiing takes on a less serious tone with several hundred feet of open slopes leading you to the road. Return to Alta via car shuttle, hitchhiking, or walking (about 1.2 miles).
Winter backcountry adventures can be dangerous outdoor activities that pose significant risks as conditions affecting safety (i.e. weather, snowpack stability, avalanche hazard) are constantly changing. Prior to engaging in these activities each individual should get the proper training to make safe decisions and be equipped to use avalanche safety resources and tools. Please visit our Backcountry Skiing and Avalanche Safety post to learn more.