Update for February 27, 2019

February 27, 2019 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
New snow: 14 inches
Total settled snow depth: 90 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 40°F (February 26)
Low temperature: -12°F (February 22)

Ski Conditions and Weather

February is going out warm and wet. Our thermometer here hit the 40°F mark for the first time this month yesterday, and our precipitation gauge had another 0.52 inches of water in it this morning with more in the forecast. There were a few sunny days this week that gave us a window of good travel weather to complete the monthly snow surveys. Average snow depths at our courses ranged from 142 inches at Snow Flat to 99 inches at Dana Meadow. The amount of water in this snow is above average for the March 1 snow surveys.

High winds out of the NE and SW this week have had continued impacts on high elevation ski conditions. Scouring and drifting, wind crust, wind board, and if one is persistent in the hunt, wind-blown powder can all be found above tree line presently. Below tree line, the snow coverage is much more uniform and the ski conditions are better. The trail breaking along the Tioga Road east and west of Tuolumne Meadows was initially deep and arduous, but the warmer temperatures and higher density snow has consolidated the snow surface more to allow for faster travel.

As of this writing Highway 120 has not been plowed above the USFS office in Lee Vining Canyon which adds about two miles to an already lengthy approach to Tuolumne Meadows from the east. The Poole Power Plant road is also unmaintained at this time and impassable to vehicular traffic. If one is ambitious enough for this trek, be advised that crampons and/or an ice axe may be warranted on the approach to Tioga Pass for the remainder of the ski season especially where there may be avalanche or wind deposited snow, and/or that rain crust!
Skier on Tenaya Lake on February 23, 2019.
Skier on Tenaya Lake on February 23, 2019.

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions

Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.
Presently the avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne Meadows area is low. Wind slabs continue to be the main hazard and these will primarily be found in the alpine terrain on lee slopes. “Lee slopes” are not always obvious, as the wind direction in the Sierra Nevada is quite variable, and is known to change, especially immediately following, or in between storms. Visitors to the wilderness should always get up to date avalanche and weather forecasts prior to their trip.

Animal kill near pine marten tracks on February 23, 2019.
Animal kill near pine marten tracks on February 23, 2019.


For the second month in a row, we saw and heard a Pine grosbeak chirping from the very top of a western white pine at Snow Flat. On our way back home through Tuolumne Meadows there were numerous pine marten and rodent tracks. It appeared that one vole may have met its fate not from all the predators on the ground but from above (a bird).

General Information

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. We can be contacted regarding winter travel to Tuolumne Meadows via email, but we may be delayed in responding if we are on patrol.

For those visiting the Tuolumne Ski Hut from the east (only) permits are self-issued at the ski hut. For those entering from other areas, visit: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740.

Come prepared, and please make good decisions while travelling in the wilderness!

Happy Skiing!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers
Pywiak Dome and Tenaya Peak on February 21, 2019.
Pywiak Dome and Tenaya Peak on February 21, 2019.

10 Comments Comments icon

  1. Yosemite National Park
    March 07, 2019 at 12:39

    @Don, snowline currently stretches down to the closed gate on the east side. Bikes are legal in Highway 120 up to the park boundary at Tioga Pass. There is currently power at the Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut, but this is subject to change (we haven't experienced power outages yet this year, but it's always a possibility).

  2. Yosemite National Park
    March 04, 2019 at 11:53

    @Tommy, In general, bighorn sheep do migrate to lower elevations in winter. Sounds like the winter rangers have not seen any this year; however, they haven't had a chance to patrol in the area of the Cathedral herd.

  3. Don
    March 04, 2019 at 11:27

    Coming in from east around 3/13. Do you know what elevation snowpack resides on Tioga Road?Wondering about bike use above gate near Lee Vining? Is there power at Tuolumne Cabin?? Thanks for housekeeping and snow surveying,

  4. Bob
    March 03, 2019 at 03:57

    Thanks for the update! Looking forward to the next one and more pictures.

  5. Bob
    March 03, 2019 at 03:57

    Thanks for the update! Looking forward to the next one and more pictures.

  6. Bob
    March 03, 2019 at 03:57

    Thanks for the update! Looking forward to the next one and more pictures.

  7. George
    February 28, 2019 at 07:58

    Your pics are always stunningly gorgeous! Thank you! Tenaya Lake takes on an entirely different look in the winter. All new for me. Awesome!

  8. Tommy
    February 27, 2019 at 08:57

    Have you checked/seen any of the Bighorn Sheep that were released up in the Cathedral Range? Would they have migrated to a lower elevation in the winter?

  9. Clark
    February 27, 2019 at 08:06

    Glad you had a little sunny weather to help complete the snow surveys... and because it makes the pictures that much more spectacular! Skiing across Tenaya Lake looks like fun! Hope you get some more sun mixed with snow in the week ahead. Thanks for the report!

  10. Jacob
    February 27, 2019 at 07:16

    Useful information and interesting photos, as always!

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Last updated: February 27, 2019

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