Weather: March 27th through April 3rd
High temperature: 52°F (March 29th)
Low temperature: 16°F (April 2nd)
New snow: 8 inches
Total settled snow depth: 23 inches as of April 3rd
Skiing Conditions and Weather: A brief return to winter this week brought 8 inches of snow and a half inch of water equivalent to the Tuolumne Meadows area this week. It was a welcome change. It was good to see snow hanging from the trees and the old snow surface white again. That being said, the last few days of warm and sunny weather has exposed the old dirty snow surface, and the melt continues. The Tuolumne River is opening up and the sound of rushing water is in the air. The ski touring is still good, and there are some good turns to be found above 9,000 feet. South aspects are mostly bare and coverage is good elsewhere. The Tioga Road is bare pavement from the closed gate in Lee Vining Canyon to Tioga Pass. There are some bare patches on the road between Tioga Pass and Tuolumne Meadows. If travelling from the west (Crane Flat), there are several miles of dry pavement in the vicinity of Gin Flat.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions: For the latest avalanche advisory for this area go to www.esavalanche.org for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center and click on advisory. The ESAC site is updated several times a week and more often during weather events.
The avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne Meadows area is low. There was collapsing observed in the Dana Meadows area this week. There is faceted snow in the upper part of the snowpack that is collapsing under the weight of skiers. It is below the melt freeze crust and a fairly thick layer. Travelers should be cognizant of this weakness in the snowpack and use caution when on slopes greater than 30 degrees in the alpine zone. The other avalanche concern is warming temperatures and the snowpack not freezing overnight. There is a chance of rain later this week and this could add a new dimension to the snowpack and any potential avalanche hazard.
Wildlife: Tuolumne Meadows naturalist Karen Amstutz had the best bird sightings this week. She saw the first few "not-so" red-winged blackbirds staking out their territory in the vicinity of Soda Springs. Northern flickers and other woodpeckers continue to be quite vocal in the area. And last, but not least, Karen followed the cries of the northern goshawk to its perch among the lodgepole pines near the meadows.
Questions: The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is an ample supply of firewood and 10 bunks that are available on a first come, first served basis. You can call the Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station at 209/372-8734. If you leave a message we will get back to you the first chance we get. Power and phones are frequently out of service. Contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740 with any questions or concerns if you are unable to reach the ranger station. Come prepared; don't count on electricity or phone service at the ski hut.
Happy Ski Touring!
Laura and Rob Pilewski
Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers
Tuolumne River reflects newly fallen snow on April 1st.