Last updated: January 17, 2018
New snow: 1 inch
Total settled snow depth: 8 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 58°F (January 12)
Low temperature: 18°F (January 13)
Ski Conditions and Weather
It was another very warm week, with high temperatures in the mid-50s. This has resulted in the snow setting up more like springtime along the Tioga Road and in the flats around Tuolumne Meadows. Speaking of the flats……we are often asked what gear works best for a ski tour to Tuolumne Meadows. We prefer skis with a patterned base and full metal edge. The patterned base allows for touring on low angle terrain without the need for climbing skins. Kicker skins (short skins that only cover about 1/3 of the ski base) are a useful alternative if you do not have skis with scales. Full length climbing skins are necessary when ascending steeper terrain. We always carry ski wax and a scraper for those days where the snow sticks to the bottom of our skis.
The best opportunity for making turns is on north aspects above 9,500 feet. Anything that is not due north, however, is a mixed bag of zipper or wind-crust. South aspects are still quite bony, but low angle drainages offer good touring. The Tioga Road as of this writing is also quick touring, but that may change here soon given the forecast for possible snow. Patchy snow starts at approximately 8,000 feet to the west along the Snow Creek trail. The Tioga Road is 100% snow covered from that area east to Ellery Lake Dam.
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 warm temperatures have helped to stabilize the snowpack for the time being. At the beginning of this week we observed collapsing of the snowpack on weak buried layers on north aspects between 9,000 feet and 10,000 feet. By weeks’ end, we were not observing this sign of instability. The avalanche hazard is presently low in the Tuolumne Meadows area and along the Tioga Road corridor as there is hardly any snow in these avalanche paths.
We have been hearing more great horned owls this season than our previous ones. In fact, the other night, we heard another curious call. It sounded like something plaintively begging or barking. But, it was responding to the typical hoots of a great horned owl. As it turns out, it was an immature great horned owl who’s, let’s say, voice, hadn’t quite reached adulthood. The response of its parents to the youngster’s incessant calls may have been interpreted as “you’re old enough now; get your own food!”
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 at this time. 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 traveling in the wilderness this winter.
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers