Update for February 5, 2020

February 05, 2020 Posted by: Rob and Laura Pilewski

New snow: 1 inch
Total settled snow depth: 28 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 60°F (February 1)
Low temperature: -9°F (February 3)

Ski Conditions and Weather

The first part of this week had very spring like weather with warm temperatures, hitting a near record high of 60°F on Saturday. This was followed by a frigid return of winter temperatures less than 48 hours later when the mercury bottomed out at -9°F. The winds that were calm one day, peaked at over 100 mph over the Sierra crest the next; and yet the next, and, yes, they’re still blowing today. This weather reminds me (Rob) of my days working as a ski patroller in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. The ski conditions are also reminiscent of those days with snow surfaces so hard and icy that it makes one wonder if the fillings in their mouth are going to rattle out; conditions so rough that it causes the whole body to shake, rattle, and roll.

To call the present state of the ski conditions “interesting” would be generous. Beneath the now refrozen snow surface and wind board and crust is primarily nothing but faceted snow. On the upside, the weather forecast calls for sunny skies and calm winds towards the end of the week which could see a return of spring skiing conditions on the more solar aspects. Even this week we found good spring-like snow on a south aspect between 11,500 feet and 9,000 feet. The touring along the road, in the meadows, and drainages should also be pretty good if traveling is done during the still supportable/frozen part of the day.

Freezing rain and rocky terrain on the Dana saddle on January 30, 2020.
Freezing rain and rocky terrain on the Dana saddle on January 30, 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.

Presently the avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne Meadows area is low. The extreme winds the last few days may have found enough loose snow to transport and form wind slabs in the higher elevations. If so, these pockets would be isolated and relatively small. The real hazard these days in the alpine zone is hard snow conditions and the potential for a “slide for life” if one were to fall. Ice axe and crampons are recommended.

Mt. Gibbs on January 30, 2020.
Mt. Gibbs on January 30, 2020.


Bears were also out and about during the snow surveys as were evidenced by their meandering paw prints. We had a good chuckle when we heard the Badger Pass A-frame ranger call Ostrander Ski Hut on the radio. They had stated that they had reminded snowshoers to please stay off the ski tracks as a courtesy. Apparently, one of the bears in Tuolumne wasn’t aware of this snow etiquette as it post-holed unsuccessfully down the road in a freshly made set of ski tracks. Unfortunately for the bear, these ski tracks didn’t offer much support in this rotten snowpack and it soon abandoned them and headed deeper into the woods.

General Information

The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is firewood and 10 bunks that are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For those visiting the Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut from the east (only) permits are self-issued at the Ski Hut. For those entering from other areas, please see Yosemite’s website:https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm (#3: Do I need a wilderness permit during winter?) or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740. 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.

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

Think snow!
Rob and Laura Pilewski – Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers

Tioga Lake and Tioga Pass on January 31, 2020.
Tioga Lake and Tioga Pass on January 31, 2020.

Last updated: February 5, 2020

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