Update for December 18, 2012

December 18, 2012 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski

Weather: December 11  through December 18
High temp: 38 °F (December 11th)
Low temp: -11 °F (December 7th )
New Snow: 22"  inches                                    
Total settled snow depth: 29" inches as of December 18th                      
Skiing Conditions and Weather: 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. The density of the snow that fell this week varied from <5% (12/12) to 10% (12/18). The bluebird day that followed that low density snowfall was the finest day of powder skiing thus far this winter. It was light and dry powder on top of a smooth supportable surface. 

The short days of December, with the sun low on the horizon, makes the lighting this time of year reason enough to get out and enjoy this winter wilderness.
The freshly fallen snow clinging to the pines gives an added air of tranquility to the surroundings and peace prevails in the high country of Yosemite National Park.

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. These updates should begin any day now for the season…

We did not see any avalanche activity or observe any signs of instability on our patrols this week. I would qualify that by saying that we did not venture into the high alpine zone this week, but rather kept our patrols at timberline and below. We hope to get up to the Sierra Crest this week and have a good look around….weather permitting. There was not much wind associated with our weather this week, so its effect on the snow was probably minimal. The melt freeze crusts that we identified last week are persisting on most aspects and elevations. We will keep an eye on them as the winter progresses. There was some very impressive surface hoar (feathery crystals that develop on the snow surface) development this week in places. These snow crystals are beautiful to look at on the snow surface, but once buried by subsequent storms can become a persistent weakness that can cause a failure of the snowpack and lead to avalanches.

Wildlife: The fresh snow this week gave us a chance to hone our animal track identification skills. We observed tracks left by Coyote, Douglas Squirrels, Pine Martens, Ermine, and Snow Shoe Hare. We observed a Pine Marten with an unlucky Hare (or part of one) in his mouth looking for a
place to have lunch in peace. The bird sightings this week were highlighted by a Northern Goshawk and included
Mountain Chickadees, Brown Creepers, Ravens, and Clark's Nutcrackers.      

Questions: The Tuolumne Ski Hut is open for the season. 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)372-0450.  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. 

Let it Snow!
Laura & Rob Pilewski
Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers

 Tuolumne Meadows after a December snow storm.  Western White Pine covered in a new snow December 12, 2012


Last updated: January 9, 2013

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