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Skiing Mount Superior – An Iconic Utah Line

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Article Categories: Ski Touring | Skiing

The striking south face of Mount Superior is in clear site of resort skiers, tempting them away from the bustling scene across the street at Snowbird. It is a 3,000 foot, southeast facing line that ranges between 30 and 40 degrees. This makes for incredibly skiing, outrageous views, but an adventure that should never be taken lightly. Avalanche knowledge and quality skiing abilities are essential to maximizing, but not guaranteeing, your safety.

In this article, will give you everything you need and want to know about this line!

Distance – 4.4 miles round trip (7.1 km)
Height – 11,037 feet (3364 m)
Elevation gain – 2,910 feet (887 meters)
Duration –  3.5 – 4 hours
Difficulty – Difficult to Extreme
Trailhead Locations – Cardiff Trail
Dogs: Not Allowed

 

Logistics

Generally, those looking to ski superior take one of the following approaches:

  • They have a hotel or home to stay at in Alta
  • They drive their car up the canyon (with an Alta parking reservation when required), and park as close to the trailhead as possible
  • They take the bus system up to Alta, and back down (free with Ikon pass, small fee without a ski pass)

With each of these options, most will either hike back to the car, hotel, or bus stop along the rode, or hitch a couple minute ride back up the canyon from the line finish.

The easiest approach is to secure a parking reservation, and parking as close to the trailhead as possible.

Parking reservations are required for Friday, Saturday, Sunday, any holidays, and parking on weekdays before 8 am.Information on securing an Alta Parking Reservation can be found here. Reservations aren’t required any day after 1pm – but often, conditions require an earlier start.

Information on the bus system can be found here.

 

When Is The Best Time To Ski Mount Superior?

Generally, superior is skied between January and May each year. February – April will have the deepest snowpack, and the spring season sees the snowpack quickly diminish. All of these months can be great months to ski Superior as long as the avalanche and weather conditions align. On nearly any day where conditions align, you’ll find tracks down Superior.

Because this is a south facing line, as the season progresses,

 

Trail Map

Below is a FatMap route for the classic up track and ski track of Superior. You can download this GPX track for your device or chosen software for free.

Avalanche Information

Slope Angle: 30-40 degrees (the entire run is in avalanche terrain)

Approach Aspect: South and southeast facing

Skiing Aspect: South and southeast (some options can have an east facing aspect)

Elevation Rage: 8400 – 11,024

This entire route is not to be taken lightly. Conditions must align before attempting this line, and avalanches are extremely common on this line. This is a south facing line that extends about 3,000 feet of elevation difference. That means that the sun heats it up very quickly. This zone is prone to wind effect, wind loading, sun effect, and more. Therefore, anyone attempting this line, needs to have a deep understanding of the current conditions, and avalanche training and knowledge.

 

Directions

Directions to the Alta-Brighton trailhead, a common place for many to park with a reservation.

 

Route Description

Skiers start by finding Our Lady Of The Snow center and head up Michigan City road. There is almost always a skin track to follow, but if not, the route is relatively simple in that the skin track follows the telephone poles all the ways to the pass.

Once arriving at the pass, continue to skin along the ridge over Cardiff Peak, continuing on the ridge to Little Superior, and continuing along the ridge to Superior.

Looking at Superior from Cardiff Peak

Looking at Superior from Cardiff Peak

An existing skin track and bootpack will likely be there, but if not, the route is generally as simple as following the ridge. It is worth noting that there are parts of this ridge that get very steep and thin, creating a “knife edge” style ridge at various points.

One of the coolest portions of the approach

Skiing off the summit is also relatively straightforward. There are various lines that can be taken off of the true summit. Additional lines may appear when snow is higher, and when lower, some of the main route can get quite narrow, particularly in the lower cliff band of the line.

A group just short of the summit.

A group just short of the summit.

Once getting below the lower cliff band, the route is very straightforward in an open snowfield back to the road.

Skiing Superior

 

Alternative Route

The route above is the most common route. Some will climb Superior directly up the south ridge in spring conditions. The is generally, not the recommended approach. Others may also ski into the north side of Superior, or start in Mill D South Fork, gain the ridge, and then traverse to Superior.

 

Weather Forecast

Here is a detailed weather forecast for the next 4 days:

Alta, UT

Today
Sunny. High near 49, with temperatures falling to around 47 in the afternoon. South wind 14 to 18 mph.

Tonight
Mostly cloudy. Low around 32, with temperatures rising to around 34 overnight. South wind around 17 mph.

Saturday
Sunny, with a high near 48. South southwest wind around 16 mph.

Saturday Night
Mostly clear, with a low around 30. South southeast wind 15 to 18 mph.

Sunday
A slight chance of snow showers after noon. Sunny, with a high near 41. South southwest wind 16 to 26 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.

Sunday Night
A chance of snow showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 26. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New snow accumulation of less than one inch possible.

Monday
Snow showers likely. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 34. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.

 

Other Important Information

 

Skinning & Booting

You’ll be able to skin to the ridge, and a large portion of the ridge to the summit. The ridge requires some downhill skinning after Cardiff Peak that can be a little scary, so be prepared for that!

Once hiking along the ridge towards Little Superior, conditions may require the transition to booting pretty frequently. During good conditions, you can skin quite far before booting the final push to the summit. You’ll always have a need for strapping the skis or the board to the bag during any conditions however, so be prepared for that.

 

Will you need an ice axe and/or crampons?

This just depends. During certain conditions, you likely will wish you had them! When conditions align well, you’ll be able to boot the last portion to the summit without any crampons or ice axe needs. That being said, a wind swept ridge, or the ridge during low snow can result in conditions where having those tools are very warranted. The answer here is that it depends. Use recent beta to determine what you need, and if in any doubt, bring crampons and an ice axe.

 

Naming

The naming of the peaks can be very confusing as the USGS doesn’t have a name for the ski line we are discussing here today. In fact, the USGS labels Superior what everyone else calls Monte Cristo. So here is a quick image for help:

Mount Superior Peaks & Naming

Additional Photos

One of the coolest portions of the approach Booting the ridge Views of Cardiac Ridge

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of hikingandfishing.com. He has a passion for the outdoors and making outdoor education and adventure more accessible. Max is a published author for various outdoor adventure, travel, and marketing websites. He is an experienced hiker, backpacker, fly fisherman, trail runner, and spends his free time in the outdoors. These adventures allow him to test gear, learn new skills, and experience new places so that he can educate others. Max grew up hiking all around New Hampshire and New England. He became obsessed with the New Hampshire mountains, and the NH 48, where he guided hikes and trail runs in the White Mountains. Since moving out west, Max has continued his frequent adventures in the mountains, always testing gear, learning skills, gaining experience, and building his endurance for outdoor sports. You can read more about his experience here: hikingandfishing/about

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