Update for January 13, 2021

January 13, 2021 Posted by: Rob and Laura Pilewski

New snow: Trace
Total settled snow depth: 20 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 49°F (January 11)
Low temperature: 2°F (January 9)

2020 Weather Summary for Tuolumne Meadows Weather Plot

Average maximum temperature: 55.2°F (Historical average: 53.4°F)
Average minimum temperature: 23.6°F (Historical average: 22.5°F)
Average temperature: 39.4°F (Historical average: 38.1°F)
Average temperature for August of 57.2°F was a record high (Historical average: 53.5°F)
Precipitation: 14.77 inches (Historical average: 27.84 inches)
Winter of 2019-2020 seasonal snowfall: 182 inches (Historical average: 298 inches)

2020 was the second driest calendar year in 29 years.   

Lenticular clouds over the Yosemite high country on January 8, 2021
Lenticular clouds over the Yosemite high country on January 8, 2021.

Current Ski Conditions and Weather

The weather this week was warm, dry, and windy. As you can see from the 2020 weather summary, warm and dry seem to be the trend.

On a brighter note…..ski conditions, particularly for ski touring, are pretty decent considering the shallow snowpack. Coverage is best along trail corridors, broad drainages and on north facing slopes above 8,000 feet. The high lonesome (above 11,000 feet) is wind affected, and high winds have scoured many aspects down to bare ground. Where there is snow, it may be firm, breakable crust of varying kinds and/or soft shallow powder! Snow surface conditions are going through daily changes and ski touring conditions generally benefit from dry/warm spells.

We greatly appreciate the warm welcome back from those who commented on our first blog post. We responded to some of your questions there but ran into some technical difficulties. We encourage you to continue to post comments on the Yosemite National Park Tuolumne Winter Conditions page. If you have specific questions about winter in Tuolumne Meadows we also encourage you to contact us by email. We will try to get back to you in a timely manner, but may be delayed if we are out on extended wilderness patrol.

Mammoth Peak and the Tuolumne River at sunset on January 8,2021
Mammoth Peak and the Tuolumne River at sunset on January 8,2021.

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 avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne Meadows area is low. The warm weather this week has strengthened some of the weak snow from earlier in the season. Sheltered north aspects between 9,000-11,000 feet still have weak snow layers that could be problematic if loaded with new, or wind loaded snow. The primary hazard out there now is a very shallow snowpack and the many obstacles that exist on, or just below, the snow surface. Now is a good time to get out and cross-country ski and leave the downhill skiing for a time when the snow is deeper.  


Left photo shows classic weasel family tracks, a dumbbell style lope. Right photo shows evidence of weasel and mouse battle.
Left photo: Classic weasel family tracks; a dumbbell style lope. Right photo: Evidence of weasel vs. mouse battle.

It has been a banner year for both the weasel (long and short-tailed) as well as the mouse. Or, it at least appears that way given the lack of snow obscuring their tracks. The meadows in particular are riddled with stories of random wanderings and near misses to outright brutal collisions. “The dumbbell pattern [the sets of parallel tracks loping/jumping] is characteristic of the weasel…Their trails seldom go far in a straight line and show continual changes of direction corresponding to slight changes in stimuli” (Halfpenny, J. A Field Guide to Mammal Tracking in North America, 1986).

General Information

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

Stay healthy!
Rob and Laura Pilewski – Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers

Tuolumne Meadows, Mt. Conness, and Lembert Dome on January 11, 2021
Tuolumne Meadows, Mt. Conness, and Lembert Dome on January 11, 2021.

Last updated: January 13, 2021

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