It was another wet week in the central Sierra Nevada. The latest round of moisture was mostly rain here in Tuolumne Meadows, so although the new snow amounts were low, almost two inches of water was added to the already saturated and deep snowpack.
Winter returned to the Yosemite high county this week; we measured 26 inches of new snow and 2.68 inches of water equivalent during this storm. With over 100 inches of snow still on the ground here at 8,600 feet it is looking like it will be a short summer season here in Tuolumne Meadows this year.
We had a busy week of conducting the five area snow surveys. Travel conditions were mostly good and the surveys provided some interesting data. In spite of the dryer than average March, the surveys at Dana and Rafferty Meadows showed the most snow water equivalent (SWE) in the history of the April 1 surveys! These two courses date back as far as 1927 and 1948 respectively.
During the first few days of March the ski touring and turning were some of the best of the season. This however, was then punctuated by an intense 48 hour blizzard. And, just as quickly, the sun and calm winds have returned. For now, expect just about every ski condition possible and make sure you bring your scraper, and ski and skin wax.
This week was characterized by cold temperatures and mostly dry weather. The alpine terrain was hit hard by southwest winds following last week’s stormy weather. The disturbance that came through the central Sierra Nevada the past few days left some cold, dry powder, on the surface. The skiing is quite good presently but we are in for a bit of a warm up at the end of this week which will affect conditions yet again.
February 22, 2017Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
After the epic January here in the Sierra Nevada we thought perhaps the weather would become more “settled” in February. Au contraire, as of this writing we have measured 128 inches of snow and 13 inches of water equivalent at our weather plot here in Tuolumne Meadows so far this month. This week we took advantage of the four day window of dry window of dry weather we had and patrolled up to Tioga Pass and Mt. Dana...
February 15, 2017Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The weather this week gave us a taste of just about everything. First it rained 2.5 inches, and then it snowed 29 inches. Our settled snow stake hit 126 inches! Then, a mighty gale came up out of the northeast for two days and redistributed all of the snow. Presently, you would be hard pressed to find any snow out there that has not been wind affected one way or another. You don’t like these ski conditions? Stay tuned, conditions will surely change again soon.
February 08, 2017Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
We have measured 40 inches of new snow this past week and 3.57 inches of water so far, and there is more in the forecast. The present storm is a warm one and snow levels are high. The snow is of the “sierra cement” variety and the lighter snow that fell earlier in the week is now “inverted” beneath the heavy snow. This makes for difficult trail breaking and marginal ski conditions.
February 02, 2017Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
We just completed our first set of snow surveys for the month of January 2017 (aka the February 1 snow surveys) which yielded snow depths and water content within the top three to five ever recorded for the month. The warm temperatures this week caused the snow surface, on all aspects except north, below 9,500 feet, to go through a melt-freeze cycle. In the alpine zone, the snow is wind affected.
We live in a world of extremes up here in Tuolumne Meadows. We have seen record drought. Now we have seen record snowfall. Within a mere three weeks we have measured 207 inches of snow and 20.25 inches of water here in Tuolumne Meadows.
Our week in Tuolumne can be summed up in three words—the big dig! Following the copious snowfall of the previous week we have been busy digging out area facilities and assessing the results of such a deep blanket of white that fell in such a short time frame. And, we still recorded 25 inches of new snow this week!
Winter solitude in a world of one color, the sound of wind” - Basho. That sums up our week up here. If you are reading this post, it probably means the Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers have survived the atmospheric river events of January 4, 2017 to present —105 inches of new snow with 12.5 inches of water and counting!
The weather this week was dominated by sun and wind, and starting yesterday, snow. We had brilliant early winter sunshine and calm winds for the first half of the week, followed by high winds and unsettled weather during the second half. The ski conditions went through some changes because of this weather pattern.
December 21, 2016Posted by: Rob and Laura Pilewski
This is our first full update of the 2016-17 winter season. Snow coverage is excellent on all aspects above 8,500 feet presently. The snow is wind affected above 9000 feet, so ski conditions and snow depth vary by aspect. Ski conditions are currently very good along the Tioga Road. The above normal temperatures this week have settled the snowpack at the mid elevations and trail breaking has gotten easier over time.
This is the last post of the 2015-2016 winter season. It was a dry week, with cold and windy conditions initially, followed by warm temperatures and calm winds. The snowpack is set up nicely for ideal spring ski conditions.
This week was characterized by very warm daytime highs and below freezing overnight lows for the first half of the week. The second half of the week saw warm and humid days with light precipitation and above freezing overnight lows. This has resulted in marginal ski conditions along the Tioga Road and the middle elevations below 9,000 feet.
High temperatures were in the low 50s every day this week. Overnight lows were below freezing, but not much below and not for very long. This has resulted in significant snow melt in the Tuolumne area. South aspects below 9,500 feet are patchy or completely bare. Above 10,000 feet the snowpack remains deep with good coverage. Ski conditions are variable depending on aspect and elevation.
It was a good week for sliding on snow in the Tuolumne Meadows area. The snow from the prior week set up for good traveling and powder skiing and just when things started to get crusty it started to snow again. There were two storms this weekend which deposited a total of 21 inches of new snow here at 8,600 feet.
This week started with spring like weather and ski conditions and ended with a welcome return to winter. An impressive 35” of new snow fell in Tuolumne Meadows over a four day period. This was a much needed deposit in the California water bank!
March 01, 2016Posted by: Robert and Laura Pilewski
The ski conditions have become very spring like this week. The middle elevations, in particular, have set up for excellent touring and turning. These so-called “spring” conditions are certainly more common in April and May than late February!
February 22, 2016Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The storm that came through central California on February 17 and 18 brought a welcome return to winter, though briefly, to the Tuolumne Meadows area. We measured 14 inches of new snow, 1.11 inches of water, and very high winds during this event. The days following the storm revealed the best powder skiing of the season.
February 17, 2016Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
This was the first week since we arrived on December 11 that there was no measurable precipitation. The daytime highs were in the mid 50’s all week, and thankfully, the overnight lows still below freezing. Above 9,500 feet the snowpack still has a winter feel to it on all but south aspects. The forecast calls for a chance of snow the next few days so there may be changes in the ski conditions/snowpack coming up.
February 03, 2016Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The winter rangers finally saw their shadows this week when the sun came out! Not sure what that means for the rest of the winter. The temperatures were much warmer this week. Those calm, sunny days were then followed by a rather drenching snow storm. We observed rain up to 10,000’ near Tioga Pass. Once colder temperatures arrived, the snow started to fall and became progressively lighter and drier, making for ideal powder skiing conditions.
As is usually the case this time of year, sun exposed areas will be forming crusts with less desirable skiing. Northerly aspects continue to be excellent skiing except where wind effected up high. Coverage is good on all aspects and ski conditions continue to be ideal.
The weather was ideal for winter recreation this week. The Tuolumne Meadows area received 16 inches of low density snow followed by cold and calm days. Trail breaking was initially quite arduous, but has since set up nicely for good turning and touring.
Although there was not a lot of new snow this past week, ski conditions continue to be ideal. Cold temperatures, light winds, and a good settled snow depth have resulted in fine winter recreation opportunities. We did a patrol to Mono Pass this week and the ski touring was fabulous. Powder snow on top of a supportable crust, who could ask for anything more? As I write the flakes are falling again and the forecast is for a wet week ahead....
December 30, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Wow! Somebody must’ve been good this year. On Christmas Eve, Santa brought Tuolumne Meadows a foot of fresh snow! And, throughout the week, these beautiful stellar flakes kept falling from the heavens. The temperatures have remained cold, and although the winds ravaged the alpine zone, there are still plenty of areas of pleasant powder skiing.
December 23, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers
With 27 inches of new snow, we have been happily breaking trail and shoveling….a lot. Since we are in between forecasted storm cycles, ski conditions are pretty dynamic. At present, trail-breaking is deep and inverted. If you have plans of traveling anywhere in the backcountry, be flexible and prepared. Blizzard-like conditions and poor visibility can be expected. Navigational skills are a must in the winter.
December 15, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
This is our first post of the 2015-16 winter season! We arrived to the Yosemite high country on December 11th after skiing up Lee Vining Canyon from the locked gate at the bottom. The snow line stretched all the way to the gate at that time but will fluctuate with temperatures and snow conditions. Snow depth increases with altitude and above 9,000 feet there is 2-4 feet of snow on the ground and good coverage. The snow depth and ski conditions are greater now than they were at any time last winter.
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.