September 22, 2010


Cardiff Fork is home to the universally acclaimed Cardiac Bowl (left with shadow) and Cardiac Ridge (far right), two of the finest backcountry runs in the USA. The fall-lines are long and wide enough for dozens of runs, side-by-side; they get snow early and share the Northeast Aspect, where the more snow falls, less wind blows and the sun is rarely strong enough to crust the surface.

Many touring parties stay in Lodges at Alta or Snowbird and can basically cross the street (Little Cottonwood Canyon Road), slap on climbing skins, and start touring. At the end of the day, they will catch a Utah Transit Authority bus in Big Cottonwood Canyon and ride back up to Alta.

Parties staying in Salt Lake, Park City or such can meet at a bus stop and take public transit to the trailhead.

Before entering avalanche terrain the guide checks everyone for beacon compatibility and range.

After 1400' of skinning the party reaches Powerline Pass on the divide between Little and Big Cottonwood Canyons. Powdery ski runs abound north of this pass.

Just above the pass the guide sets a traverse out to the untracked terrain in Cardiff Bowl and everyone enjoys a spectacular first backcountry run. Since the plan is to return to the top and ski out to Big Cottonwood, lunches and extra water are cached above the run, allowing for unencumbered skiing and climbing.

Heading down the north side into BCC, Rick is reminded of what Utah is famous for.

Lower down the snow is light enough to enjoy low-angle wiggling through acres of sparkling fluff. An avalanche fracture on the steep, shady slope behind reminds us of why we can't safely ski the big lines every day we visit Cardiff Fork.

Donning the skins again, the party traverses down-canyon for another long run down to the finish at Reynolds Flat in BCC, 7300 feet. Here another UTA bus will return us to the bottom of the canyon.

Cardiac Bowl, on the north side of Mount Superior, can be skied if conditions are right.

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