Last updated: February 15, 2017
Total settled snow depth: 115 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 49°F (February 13)
Low temperature: 3°F (February 12)
Ski Conditions and Weather
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 that had been deposited by the high southwest winds during the snow storms of the week and put it on the other side of the ridges; and some of it just plain blew into the ether. Now the winds have died down, and the sun has returned along with above average temperatures. Needless to say, the ski conditions have also gone through some changes this week. The rain percolating through the snow gave the top three feet of the snowpack a “rotten” feel and was not much fun to ski at all. Two days later, after the rain soaked snow was buried beneath the new snow and the temperatures dropped, we quickly forgot about all of that rain and commenced to ski some fine powder. 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. This is the Sierra Nevada after all!
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions
Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.
With only short breaks between bouts of wet weather this winter the snowpack has not had much of a chance to find its happy, stable place. Just like the weather and ski conditions, the avalanche hazard ran the gamut this week. First there was the threat of wet slides and glide avalanches from rain soaked snow. There was an impressive one on Tuolumne Peak. Then there was the threat of storm slab avalanches, followed by an increasing hazard of wind slab avalanches. Now, the warming temperatures have increased the avalanche hazard from wet loose, and wet slab avalanches on sunny aspects. Numerous avalanches were reported in Lee Vining Canyon, some of which hit the road, following this week’s snow and winds.
With another cameo appearance of the sun this week, the resident wildlife has been out and about early, actively searching for food. It has been rush hour on the Tioga Road lately. One morning two pine martens ran across it heading towards Lembert Dome looking for the goods at the same time the two winter rangers were. However, they were probably looking for a juniper berry stuffed bird or rodent for breakfast. The rangers were looking for another form of sustenance: powder. Nice to know there was at least one other pair up here frolicking in the snow on Valentine’s Day!
The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is firewood and 10 bunks that are available on a first come, first served basis. Power has been intermittent and there is NO phone service in Tuolumne Meadows this winter. 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 travelling in the wilderness this winter.
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers