Backcountry skiing Cardiff Pass
Cardiff Pass (also known as Pole Line Pass) is located in the backcountry just above Alta on the north side of town. The pass is sandwiched between Cardiff and Flagstaff Peaks, and is easily one of the most crowded backcountry skiing areas in the Wasatch.
There are many reasons for Cardiff Pass to be filled with tens of dozens of ski-touring parties on any given morning – the ascent begins right off the highway in Alta, just a mile long tour will get you into spectacular backcountry terrain, and the access to epic descents on Mount Superior, Cardiff Fork and Cardiac Ridge is unparalleled.
However, the fact that Cardiff Pass get people to the goods so quick and easy, also means the slopes on and around the pass are often overlooked by skiers seeking gnarlier terrain on north-facing slopes. Sure the south side of the pass gets tracked out super quick as well, but if you’re short on time, there’s no better place to grab a few turns like Cardiff Pass.
Unfortunately, those quality lines are often crusty or sloppy (depending on the time of year) thanks to the south and east-facing, wide open aspects. As a result, you have to get there early on a powder day, or time your spring skiing morning just right to farm some excellent corn.
In fact, Cardiff Pass is arguably among the best areas in the Wasatch to find morning corn. The bowls that spill down to Alta from the shoulders of Cardiff Peak and Flagstaff are primed for soft snow first thing in the morning on a spring day.
To ski Cardiff Pass, simply drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon to Alta, and parkon the side of the highway near the Our Lady of the Snows Church. Find the skintrack on the north side of the road, generally around the Town of Alta office building. The track climbs up to the pass beneath a powerline. Following the line is the safest way to get there as it stays on ridgelines and avoids avalanche terrain traps. After only a mile, you will reach the pass and have your pick of bowls to ski over and over again, or continue up the ridge to the west, where even more skiing can be found in Cardiff Fork, Cardiac Ridge, and Mount Superior.
Of course, before heading out into the backcountry, always wear a beacon and bring a probe pole and shovel. Also, always check the avalanche report at: www.utahavalanchecenter.org.