Update for January 17, 2023

January 18, 2023 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski

New Snow: 64 inches
Settled Snow Depth: 122 inches
High temperature: 35°F (January 13)
Low temperature: -6°F (January 17)

Tuolumne Living Conditions

Storm clearing with skier and Lembert Dome on January 16, 2023
Storm clearing on January 16, 2023

Wake up. Hydrate. Start a fire in the wood stove. Drink strong coffee. Stare into the fire. Grab a grunt bar (aka protein bar). Emerge from our snow cave. Break trail up the forested area near Lembert Dome in a tempest to stretch the legs and assess avalanche hazard. Ski home. Eat brunch. Shovel for four hours. Eat dinner. Rinse. Repeat.

The best way we can describe our lives in years like this is to compare it to the 1993 film Groundhog Day with Bill Murray where he gets stuck in a time loop and every day is the same. In fact, we can even further extend that comparison in that we are like rodents burrowing through the snow and today we finally saw our shadow! And suddenly it all feels like it was just a dream. Until the shovel is in our hand once again. Next week we’ll replace it with a 200-inch-long Mt. Rose snow survey sampler and escape from our snow globe in Tuolumne Meadows. But all of that is a big reason why we are here. Wilderness. Simplicity. To experience discomfort so that you don’t take creature comforts for granted.

Winters like this can be intense physically and mentally. In wilderness we certainly must make even more conservative decisions in weather patterns that do not allow helicopters to fly or permit rescue teams to pass through avalanche terrain safely for weeks at a time. Even if the avalanche hazard was low, it would take days for people or snow machines to break the sixteen plus miles of trail to Tuolumne Meadows during these storms.

Three images; Left: Building maintenance with ranger on roof; Center: Looking down at the woodshed; Right: Retrieving firewood from woodshed
Left: Building maintenance; Center: Looking down at the woodshed; Right: Retrieving firewood from woodshed.

Ski Conditions and Weather

The numbers above tell the story. Within a mere 24 hours post storm(s) the snow is already settling, making for easier travel. With the sun shining, don’t forget your scraper and ski/skin waxes. Although temperatures are forecasted to remain quite cold, rollerballs and/or rockfall could become hazards with any direct sunlight. Be wary of traveling above or below any of the giant cornices that have formed this season.

Be advised that as of this writing Highway 120 from the east has not been plowed beyond the U.S. Forest Service office to the Lee Vining Gate which adds an additional three miles into Tuolumne Meadows from the east. Please be respectful of snow removal crews and do not park in areas that they may need to plow.

Trail breaking on the Tioga Road on January 16, 2023.
Trail breaking on the Tioga Road on January 16, 2023.

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions

Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) and the Bridgeport Avalanche Center for the avalanche advisories for this part of the Sierra Nevada.

Throughout the series of storm cycle(s) there have been many periods of snow instability. At one point on the afternoon of January 14 when the snow became inverted during the storm (dense snow on top of light snow), countless storm slab avalanches released. This included one on the southern slope of Lembert Dome that took out a small tree and traveled across the Tioga Road.  


White breasted nuthatch on juniper on January 14, 2023.
White breasted nuthatch on juniper on January 14, 2023.

As the sun hit the south-facing slopes this morning, the birds seemed to be as stunned as we were that the storm was over. Mountain chickadees and white-breasted nuthatches flitted about the warm red bark of the junipers while the jovial sounds of red crossbills flew overhead.


Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open! There is an ample supply of firewood and 8 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 available by self-registration at the ski hut itself. For those entering from other areas within Yosemite, learn more about how to obtain your wilderness permit (“#3: Do I need a wilderness permit during winter?”) or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740. As of this writing, there is electricity but no phone service in Tuolumne Meadows.

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

Read through the following two pages before embarking on any day or overnight snow travel within this park: 

You may contact us with any additional winter Tuolumne Meadows related questions but response times may vary if we are away on patrol.  

Happy Skiing!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers

Winter Ranger residence and weather station on January 11, 2023
Winter ranger residence and weather station on January 11, 2023.

Last updated: January 18, 2023

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