The Best Ski Tours Near Alta and Snowbird

Ski the perfect powder and diverse backcountry terrain of Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Jesse Weber




Alta is the famous skiers-only resort topping 2500 acres, and Snowbird is its equally-huge next door neighbor. Both of them bask in a whopping 540 inches of annual snowfall and are located only 45 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City, at the end of the steep and curvy drive up Little Cottonwood Canyon. Despite their immensity, the two resorts do not occupy all the terrain at the head of this canyon. Untouched mountains rise on either side, creating vast terrain for backcountry skiers and riders to explore. When driving up the canyon, the view is of a jagged skyline and plummeting couloirs. Their names denote legendary ski objectives: Mount Superior, Pfeifferhorn, Thunder Mountain, and more.

If you come to Little Cottonwood with your sights set on these peaks, you will certainly not be alone. This is one of Salt Lake’s top backcountry skiing destinations, thanks to the supreme quality and easy access. You will also share the road with traffic bound for Alta and Snowbird, which often stalls the highway to a crawl. The congestion is no reason not to go, but it does necessitate an early start and a solid game plan.

Use this guidebook to explore the lines you might ski, and use the information as a starting point for preparation. In each description, you’ll find details of the route, some clues to the conditions you’ll want, and an idea of the skillset you’ll need to get safely up and down. Though there are some mellow tours in Little Cottonwood, many of these lines are advanced undertakings with serious consequences. Even if they remain out of reach for now, use this guide for the inspiration to someday get there!


Little Pine

Little Pine is the king of S facing lines in Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Tri Chutes

The Tri-Chutes are a Wasatch classic with some of the longest open lines in the range.

Monte Cristo Direct

One of the longer classic lines in upper Little Cottonwood Canyon with a rappel thrown in to spice things up.

Scotty's Approach

This is the safest way to approach the classic north facing powder run, called Scotty's Bowl.


Probably one of the best kept secrets in the Wasatch! Icefall is almost 2,000 feet long with a wide open headwall, tight chute and fun gully finish.

Mount Superior Approach

This is the easiest and safest approach to Mount Superior via Cardiff Pass and the Eastern Ridge.

Pfeifferhorn Approach

This is the approach up Red Pine drainage to access the many great lines off the Pfeifferhorn.

Birthday Chutes at Snowbird

The Birthday Chutes are some of the most classic sidecountry lines in the Wasatch. Snowbird doesn't open the gates to ski these all that often so touring up to them is a great option.

Mount Superior South Face

Mount Superior is one of the most classic lines in the range. The S Face is nearly 3,000 feet long and starts in the mid 40 degree range.

Scotty's Bowl

Scotty's is a classic north facing roadside attraction in upper Little Cottonwood Canyon.

Alta Summer Road

The typical uphill access at Alta, used for inbounds and backcountry terrain.