Ski Little Cottonwood Canyon

Alta Trailhead, Alta, Utah, United States

  • Activities:

    Snowboarding, Photography, Skiing, Fitness

  • Skill Level:

    Advanced

  • Season:

    Winter

Easy Parking
Food Nearby
Forest
Scenic

Easy access to some of the best skiing/riding in the continental U. S. Quick access to runs. Ski powder before work. Skiing/snowboarding with the sunrise. Need I say more?

It's no secret that Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC) is home to some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the lower 48, if not North America. What many people are not aware of is the extremely easy and quick access from Salt Lake City.

Enter the Dawn Patrollers. Skiers and snowboarders from Salt Lake often make the 20 minute drive to trailheads at the end of LCC in the early hours of the morning to catch a lap or two before work, get the goods before others, or simply to shred in amazing alpenglow lighting. The Dawn Patrol is a staple of Little Cottonwood, and is always waiting for those willing to wake up and ride when most people are still sound asleep.

The easy access that LCC provides allows for skiers to have a solid night's sleep in their own beds in Salt Lake, and still get an epic early morning run in before work, or just as an awesome way to start the day. I recommend beginning to hike between 5:45 and 6:15 am, meaning at least a 5:00 wake up time. From the top of LCC, runs down Mt. Superior, Toledo, Cardiff Ridge, and Grizzly Gulch are easily attainable with an hour or more of hiking. If you're willing to make the effort and early wake up, a powder run in pink alpenglow lighting will be one of the most memorable runs of your season.

Begin hiking on the north side of the road, behind Our Lady of the Snows Church (a common skin track starting point). From there, a well defined skin track will take you up a hundred feet or so in elevation. The track will then split several ways. It is very intuitive to see where each track leads. Depending on snow conditions, follow one track up Flagstaff Peak to access classic lines such as Toledo Chute and Toledo Bowl. Follow another track up to Cardiff to access Cardiff Fork and Mt. Superior. For longer adventures, drop over the ridge into Big Cottonwood Canyon to fantastic skiing zones like Days Fork and Silver Fork. Be sure to have a rough plan of where to go before starting, and be willing to adjust according to snow conditions.

As always, skiing and snowboarding possesses an inherent risk. Before entering the backcountry, you need to have proper avalanche and route finding training. Backcountry gear is mandatory, including a beacon, probe, shovel, and backpack to carry it all. Warm clothes are a must. Always travel with a partner, and "know before you go." The Utah Avalanche Center is an amazing resource to plan where you will ride, and can be found here: http://utahavalanchecenter.org/. Be safe, and have fun.

Oh yeah, and if you're into photography, the only thing better than shooting the Wasatch Range is shooting powder skiing, in early morning light, in the Wasatch Range.

Pack List

  • Backcountry capable ski/snowboard setup
  • Proper backcountry training
  • Beacon
  • Probe
  • Shovel
  • Headlamp
  • Thermos (highly recommended pre-drop-in hot coffee or tea)
  • Warm clothes
  • Alarm clock
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Reviews

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There is nothing like skiing in LCC. The backcountry skiing options are endless for all levels of skiers.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

Like said above, waking up in your own bed and having LCC as your backyard can't be beat. It's got the goods, and they are easy to get. Be weary of other backcountry users and practice safe snow travel and your powder days in the Wasatch won't be forgotten!

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

A beautiful canyon with incredible skiing close to the city?! What's not to (immensely like!)

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Awesome

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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