Update for January 19, 2016

January 20, 2016 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski

Upper Gaylor Lakes Basin on January 12, 2016
New snow: 31 inches

Total settled snow depth: 56 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 46 degrees F (January 12)
Low temperature: -1 degrees F (January 14)

Season Totals

Total snowfall November to Present: 161 inches
Total snow water equivalent November to Present: 11.57 inches
Average Temperature: 20 degrees F

Ski Conditions and Weather

It was a good week for those of us who like snow. Here in water starved California that should be all of us! There were three quick moving disturbances that came through depositing an additional 31 inches of snow to our increasing snowpack. Colder storms and below average water content of the new snow has resulted in more settlement of the snowpack. This is how 161 inches of total snowfall equates to a 56 inches settled snow depth over the past three months. Our weather site here in Tuolumne Meadows is slightly above average for this time of year for snowfall and water equivalent. 

The ski conditions were dynamic again this week. We had some warm temperatures and a significant wind event on January 13 that greatly affected the snow surface, making for some interesting and challenging skiing. Thankfully, the new snow that has fallen since then has buried those wind and sun crusts and has replaced them with soft powdery snow. When the skies clear after the present storm the same scenario may play out according to the forecast. Winter backcountry ski conditions are an ever changing phenomenon, especially here in the Sierra.  Winter visitors to the Yosemite high country should bring their patience, some wax, and a scraper, and be prepared to seek out skiing on different aspects as conditions dictate.  The snowpack is deep and the coverage is good, and even a “bad” day of skiing is better than anything else we can think of……

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions

For the avalanche advisory for this area of the Sierra Nevada go to http://www.esavalanche.org for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center.

The aforementioned wind event caused very reactive wind slabs to form on lee slopes in the high alpine terrain. Swirling winds at the middle elevations also caused wind slabs to form on different aspects.  Remember, wind slabs can form even when there is no measurable new snow.  Significant wind slab avalanches were observed this week on Lembert Dome and Gaylor Ridge.  Winter travelers should keep an eye on weather trends and check advisories from local avalanche centers prior to their trip. Always stay flexible with your itinerary. 

Porcupine up in a tree


On our way up to Tioga Pass this week, once again we encountered porcupine tracks. But this time they were fresh, crossing our ski tracks in a perpendicular fashion leading up to a nearby Lodgepole pine. This time, however, there were no tracks leading down! It took a while of squinting but thanks to the newly girdled trunk reflecting in the sun, we were able to spot the culprit just below. 


The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open! There is an ample supply of firewood and 10 bunks that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is power but no public phone service in Tuolumne Meadows this winter. 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; don't count on electricity or phone service at the ski hut.

Laura and Rob Pilewski
Tuolumne Winter Rangers

Last updated: January 20, 2016

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