This is our final post of the season. The snow from last week is mostly melted out around Tuolumne Meadows and there is essentially no skiing below 9500 feet. Above 9500 feet on north aspects, there are still skiing opportunities, but these are very limited. The best ski opportunities exist north of Tioga Pass around Bennettville and Saddlebag Lake, though travelers should anticipate having to carry skis for stretches in these places as well. The east side of Tioga Pass (Highway 120 from US 395 to Tioga Pass) is open. In Yosemite National Park, the Tioga Road is closed between Tioga Pass and Crane Flat.
Just when we were all getting excited about summer sports, Mother Nature throws us a curve ball and blankets the high mountains with some much-needed snow. It is a beautiful scene to behold. One we’ve been waiting for all season here in Tuolumne Meadows. Of course, most of this snow fell on bare ground, so our travel summary remains relatively the same: snowshoes are the equipment of choice to access the trails around Tuolumne Meadows. Ice axes and crampons are advised for high mountain travel. Especially with this new snow, trails are not obvious in places and navigational skills are a must. Come prepared for any type of weather.
Recreation conditions have not changed much since last week's post. There is still too much snow above 9,000 feet to simply hike. Snowshoes are the equipment of choice to access the trails around Tuolumne Meadows. Ice axes and crampons are advised for high mountain travel.
If you are willing to strap your skis on your back, you can find skiable snow above 9500 feet. But, it is by no means hiking season yet unless you want to post-hole in 1 ½ feet of snow on north-facing slopes above 9,000 feet. Snowshoes are still a necessity in most places above this elevation. Come prepared for any type of weather. We did get three inches of new snow this week. Every flake helps!
At 8,600 feet around Tuolumne Meadows, there is a patchwork of bare ground and snow patches of varying depths. Rivers are running and the meadows are starting to green up for spring. The continued drought (year four) and well-above-normal temperatures this winter is unprecedented since weather records have been kept here and elsewhere in California.
We spent the past week on patrol in the northern reaches of Yosemite for the Sierra Nevada red fox project. The snowpack is significantly deeper there, with an average of three feet of snow on the ground. Unfortunately, it is so dry below 8,600 feet that we had to carry our skis for ten miles before hitting “ski line.” Some would consider this excessive, but for us it was well worth the effort. The skiing and weather were perfect for spring skiing and camping.
Though not the big Sierra dump that is sorely needed, the 12 inches of snow that fell this past weekend was a sight for sore eyes! The ski conditions are vastly improved from last week. Visitors can expect the Tioga Road to be mostly snow covered from Ellery Lake to Tuolumne Meadows.
February 26, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
One can manage a few turns up high in between the rocks, and the road and meadows are still mostly snow covered, allowing for fast travel. Temperatures are forecast to be more “seasonal” this week (low 40s instead of this season’s norm of mid 50s), so not much should change in regards to the ski conditions.
February 12, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
We got the precipitation we had been waiting for this week; unfortunately it mostly fell as the liquid kind. The atmospheric river event was a warm one even for the high country. One has to go above 9,500 feet to get above the rain line. Above 9,500 feet, the new snow amounts are more like 16+ inches, and the settled snow depth is 41 inches, on average. Coverage improved dramatically with the wet snow that fell and with settlement will provide for fine cross-country skiing in the flats and gentler terrain.
February 05, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The weather this week was characterized by warm and dry conditions. January 2015 was the warmest and driest January on record for our weather station here in Tuolumne Meadows. One can easily deduce what the ski conditions are like in the area after such a weather synopsis. Remarkably, the skiing on the road and meadows is still good.
This week saw a significant warm spell, a wind event, and, finally, a dusting of new snow. Hence, the snow conditions are what we like to call “variable.” The best skiing is still on the road, in drainages, and meadows. There are not many turns to be had in the alpine zone, so touring is the best bet until (if) we get some more snow.
Despite the never-ending dry spell, visitors are taking advantage of winter in Tuolumne Meadows. People are snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking, biking (east of the park boundary) and even rock climbing! Ski conditions are ever changing. The road corridor is the most user friendly place for skiing.
The snow surface has gone through some melt - freeze cycles this week which has improved the ski conditions. The snow is still pretty shallow, with the deeper snow on the north aspects. The Tioga Road is mostly snow covered with one small patch of dry pavement from Tuolumne Meadows to Tioga Pass. This is an ideal winter for snow-shoeing especially along the trail corridors.
So.... the sun and now the winds have ravaged the mountain snow. BUT, the low angle winter lighting on the newly formed waves of sastrugi is great for photography. And the peace and quiet of the new year makes touring in wilderness as lovely as ever.
December 30, 2014Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The ski conditions and weather have held a bit of everything since our last post. It has snowed a little and the wind has blown a lot over the past ten days. It was unseasonably warm for a couple of days and now it is bitter cold. That being said, one can imagine the changes that have taken place with the ski conditions. Every turn is different and if you’re lucky you’ll hit a pocket of powder.
December 20, 2014Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The winter rangers arrived to Tuolumne Meadows last week and this is our first conditions update of the season! We will be updating this report weekly this winter. We are happy to say that things are looking and feeling a lot more like winter around here than last season. The ski conditions and snow coverage are good making for ideal winter travel. Snow depths in the area range from 16 inches to 32 inches depending on aspect and elevation.
Different year, same dry Sierra’s. Calendar year 2013 was the driest year in the history of weather record keeping in Yosemite National Park. That being said, there is still enough snow in the greater Tuolumne area for skiing.
December 22, 2013Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
It has been a dry start to the 2013-2014 winter. Our weather data is incomplete due to our late arrival at Tuolumne Meadows. Currently the snow depth is 7 to 14 inches, depending on aspect and elevation. That being said, the ski conditions on the Tioga Road and in Tuolumne Meadows are pretty darn good. The Tioga Road is virtually 100% snow covered in Yosemite National Park. There is some bare pavement on the Lee Vining grade from Tioga Pass to the gate at the bottom of Lee Vining Canyon. If approaching from the east, a bicycle would be a good idea until there is more snow.
This is our last post of the winter of 2013. The snow stake here at Tuolumne Meadows reads 0 inches, so it must be time to head for our summer range down south at Sequoia National Park. There was a lot of melting this week as temperatures were in the upper 50s each day. There is patchy snow below 9,000 feet on all aspects except south, and the best coverage remains above 9,500 feet on north aspects.
This week provided some great corn skiing opportunities below tree line, but above there is still some challenging wind-affected snow. This should change for the better with the upcoming melt freeze cycle. There is more bare ground showing every day, and the best coverage remains on north facing slopes above 9,000 feet.
A little new snow followed by high winds hit the Tuolumne area this week. There was a brief period of good powder skiing before the north winds came along and redistributed the new snow and retextured the snow surface.
Seasonal temperatures and dry conditions prevailed in the Tuolumne Meadows area this week. The little bit of snow that we did get early in the week helped to smooth the snow surface and give some grip to the waxless skis. Now is the time for ski touring as conditions are set up for covering the miles and expedient travel.
Above-normal temperatures and dry conditions prevailed in the Tuolumne Meadows area this week. It is presently snowing, however, and though not forecast to be a significant precipitation event, any additional water added to the snowpack will be welcome.
February 27, 2013Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Whether you asked for it or not, spring is in the air. Warm temperatures and cool nights are forecast for the week. If we are lucky, this will provide for an early harvest of corn snow, although we prefer a diet of powder this time of year.
February 07, 2013Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
It was a dry week with calm winds and seasonal temperatures in the Tuolumne Meadows area. The base snow depth remains unchanged in spite of the persistent dry weather, however, and coverage is still excellent for ski touring.
February 05, 2013Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
December came in with a bang and January is going out with a whimper. Only 14 inches of snow fell this month, but thanks to the short days of winter, the base depth remains solid. What snow did fall, has been thrown back, forth and beyond with some fierce winds. One would think with the week of warm temperatures there would be no loose snow to transport and to send flags of snow towering above the peaks, but that is not the case!
The cold snap that covered the Western US this week also visited Tuolumne Meadows and its icy grip could be felt for most of the week. There were 3 consecutive days where the low temperature was -17, -22, and -21 respectively.
Ski conditions this week were shaped by windy and warm weather conditions. The thermometer hit 55°F and we had several days of high North East winds. Wind effected snow is now prevalent on most aspects above tree line. There is still soft snow below tree line, though the warm temperatures have confined the good skiing to the North aspects.
The winter rangers got what they wished for this Christmas in abundance. Presents were under (and on top of) every tree! Now, however, the snow has been blown off most of the branches after a pretty significant northeast wind event. Above treeline, sastrugi and wind crusts of varying densities are lurking. In some places, where the snow has been deposited or where it has been protected, it remains soft. Below treeline, the trail breaking has become much easier.
December 27, 2012Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Wow. After last winter we were wondering if we had made a wise choice moving to the Sierras from the snowiest place in Colorado. This week was certainly testimony that this can also be a “snowy range.” There were essentially two storms that hit the Tuolumne area this week and accounted for a whopping 56” of new snow.
December 18, 2012Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
It was a snowy week in the Tuolumne area. We had measurable snowfall 5 out of 7 days. Though it was not the big Sierra dump, the snowfall this week contributed to the settled base depth, which in turn contributed to more favorable ski conditions.
It has been great spring skiing in the Tuolumne Meadows vicinity. The weather this week was dominated by warm, sunny days and clear, cold nights. This is the ideal formula for setting up the snowpack for Sierra corn skiing. Most aspects were skiing well between the hours of 10:00AM and 2:00PM.