New snow: 3 inches
Total settled snow depth: 6 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 58°F (December 14)
Low temperature: 17°F (December 19)
Ski Conditions and Weather
The winter rangers are back for lucky season number seven! This is our first post of the 2017-18 season. As we skied away from Tuolumne Meadows down the depths of Lee Vining Canyon last April, it finally set in what an intense winter we had experienced first hand. Now that we’re back, we look at everything from a new perspective with a mere six inches on the ground here in Tuolumne Meadows. Presently, the Tioga Road east of the park is bare from Lee Vining gate to Ellery Lake. Beyond there one can either walk and/or ski along the edges of the road/meadows. From Tioga Pass to just east of Tenaya Lake the Tioga Road is 95% snow covered.
Snow depths vary greatly with elevation/aspect with 4-6 inch depths around Tuolumne Meadows (8,600 feet) and up to 24-30 inches around Tioga Pass at 9,940 feet. This week saw unseasonably warm temperatures for three days, followed by cold temperatures and strong NE winds. Skiing on all aspects, subsequently, is sun and wind affected. As of this writing it is windy and snowing with a couple inches of new snow on the ground.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions
Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.
There is enough snow around Tuolumne Meadows to slide around on if one is creative. However, most southerly aspects at this elevation are devoid of snow. North facing aspects above 8,600 feet are snow covered. ESAC avalanche/snowpack advisory is spot on. North facing slopes are faceted, sugar snow with a melt-freeze/facet/wind slab sandwich on top in places. On more solar aspects, there appears to be a bit more stable of snow a snowpack with higher density snow at the ground and some faceting/melt freeze layers above. The avalanche hazard will increase with the new wind blown snow forming wind slabs over faceted snow at the higher elevations. The avalanche hazard is presently low at the middle and lower elevations. The ice, rocks and downed trees are the main hazard there!
We fell asleep to the sounds of a Great Horned Owl at Tioga Pass the other night and were greeted the next morning by the serenades of the coyotes in Dana Meadow. A flock of Dark-eyed Juncos was flitting around amidst the beautiful white snowflakes today. They appear anxious to take advantage of the bare patches of ground and seeds before they move down to the lower elevations
The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is firewood and 8 bunks that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no phone service in Tuolumne Meadows at this time. We can be contacted via email, but we may be delayed in responding if we are on patrol. Contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740 with any questions or concerns. Come prepared, and please make good decisions while traveling in the wilderness this winter.
Happy Winter Solstice!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Winter Rangers