Update for December 31, 2020

January 04, 2021 Posted by: Rob and Laura Pilewski

New snow: 9 inches
Total settled snow depth: 24 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 42°F (December 24)
Low temperature: 1°F (December 25)

Ski Conditions and Weather

This is our first post for the winter of 2021. We are grateful to be working as the Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers again this year. Returning to Tuolumne Meadows for our 10th winter really does feel like coming home.

View of Tuolumne Meadows from Dog Dome on December 28, 2020
View of Tuolumne Meadows from Dog Dome on December 28, 2020.  

It is good to see the landscape in its winter coat of white. Several weather systems came through over the past few weeks and left snow in their wake. The settled snow depth is two feet here around Tuolumne Meadows, with around three feet at the higher elevations and on north facing slopes. Temperatures have been in the normal range for the season with overnight lows in the single digits and daytime highs in the thirties. As is typical for winter in the Sierra, there have been some wind events during December. Snow at the higher elevations is very wind effected, while below tree line the snow is more uniform and powdery. As of this writing, the snowline goes down to the gate in Lee Vining Canyon to the east.
Ground fog at Sunset with ski tracks on December 16, 2020
Ground fog at Sunset on December 16, 2020.

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions

Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.

The snowpack in the Tuolumne Meadows area presently has some very weak layers. These weak layers primarily exist near the ground and are the result of the first storms of the winter back in November. Snow from those storms sat on the ground under a very shallow snowpack and the cold clear nights of December have turned the snow crystals into facets (large, sugary, cohesion-less, snow crystals). The current hazard from these weak layers is low, but when they are loaded with new snow, especially a slab of new snow, the hazard will increase dramatically. In the alpine zone especially, the wind alone can load slopes days to weeks after a storm cycle so do not become complacent this season after storms have departed. Stay vigilant and attentive.


With the short days of December, the resident wildlife has been busy trying to pack in the calories just like us over the holidays. Given all of the tracks and multiple large piles of scat, at least one bear seemingly spent a week basking in the sun and eating juniper berries just above the Tuolumne Meadows housing area prior to our arrival. One could even see the roof of our house from where it had bedded down in the litter beneath the juniper trees. Thankfully, the bear had no idea there were five months’ worth of our provisions that were just under its nose! 

General Information

The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is closed for the 2020-2021 season.

Happy New Year!
Rob and Laura Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers

Kuna Crest with blue skies and snow on December 30, 2020
Kuna Crest on December 30, 2020.

Last updated: January 4, 2021

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