Update for February 16, 2016

February 17, 2016 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski

New snow: 0 inches
Total settled snow depth: 48 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 58 degrees F (February 15)
Low temperature: 15 degrees F (February 13)

Ski Conditions and Weather

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. The snowpack has quickly gone from winter to spring conditions with this weather pattern. Above 9,500 feet the snowpack still has a winter feel to it on all but south aspects. We took advantage of the newly set up ski conditions to go on a week long wilderness patrol to the northeast corner of Yosemite. The travel conditions were ideal for touring and we managed to find some good corn snow out there too. Though hard to imagine as we write (56 degrees F and sunny), the forecast calls for a chance of snow the next few days so there may be changes in the ski conditions/snowpack coming up.

Upper Virginia Canyon on February 12, 2016.

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions

For the avalanche advisory for this area of the Sierra Nevada go to http://www.esavalanche.org for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center.

The beauty of the warm daytime temperatures and below freezing overnight temperatures is that it leads to a more stable snowpack and travel on steeper avalanche terrain becomes less hazardous. The forecast, however, calls for snow and high winds. The hard, frozen old snow surface could make for a good sliding surface for the newly fallen snow so visitors should be prepared for changing conditions and make safety assessments in real time.


This week our journey was in search of the rare Sierra Nevada Red Fox. Although we saw no evidence of them at any of the study sites, we did hear the howl of the coyote in the evening near our camp at Shepherd Lake. We also saw fresh mountain lion tracks near Summit Lake. Further up into the alpine zone, we saw the prints of a lone bighorn sheep and even above that, the golden eagle peered down from a brilliant blue Sierra sky.


The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open! There is firewood and 10 bunks that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is power but no public 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; don't count on electricity or phone service at the ski hut.

Happy Skiing!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Winter Rangers

Mt. Conness in the foreground and Tuolumne Meadows area in the background on 2.13.16

3 Comments Comments icon

  1. February 20, 2016 at 06:08

    Hi Mike, We mostly took the PCT corridor north to Virginia Canyon. Then, we exited via Shepherd Lake drainage and a cross country pass east towards Lundy Canyon and Saddlebag Lake. Obviously, snow conditions vary dramatically from year to year and one needs to have good navigational skills especially for winter travel.

  2. February 18, 2016 at 01:59

    What route did you take into and out of Virginia Canyon?

  3. February 17, 2016 at 02:55

    Thanks for the update. Sounds a lot like conditions out here. Can't wait to get out there myself. Sandy heads your way next week.

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Last updated: February 17, 2016

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