New Snow: 40 inches
Settled Snow Depth: 70 inches
High temperature: 50°F (December 26)
Low temperature: -2°F (January 2)
Ski Conditions and Weather
It truly felt like a new year when we returned to Tuolumne Meadows this week. What an impressive winter scene was here to greet us!
Skiing up the Tioga Road towards Tioga Pass in the driving rain and gale force winds on December 29 had us wondering if 2022 was going to end in a total “washout,” but the rain turned to snow at about the 9,000 feet elevation, and the following day saw heavy snowfall down to 8,000 feet. There is now about six feet of snow on the ground here at 8,600 feet and almost 100 inches above 9,500 feet. We collected 7.81 inches of snow water equivalent (SWE) the past ten days here in Tuolumne Meadows at 8,600 feet with more in the forecast.
The ski conditions, as always, are dependent on aspect and elevation. During, and immediately following storms, trail breaking is slow and arduous. The snowpack has not had ample opportunity to settle between storms making it very slow going out there at times. Days are short and it is certainly more of a commitment to venture far this time of year, preparation is key.
Normally in winters like this the wildlife tends to use our ski tracks to conserve valuable energy to get around. However, both on our way in and out of the park last week we were grateful to ski atop the tracks of a large-pawed bear that ambled to and from Dana Meadows. Given the depth and distance it post-holed, we imagine it will be sleeping until the snow melts!
The ermine, on the other hand, are in their element. They bound and tunnel up and over the snow so quickly that one surprised the local rangers as they were running the emergency snowmobiles for maintenance outside the ranger station. Swerving at the last minute to avoid this cute little critter, the snowmobile sunk while the short-tailed weasel floated unscathed back into the meadow with its tracks telling the tale of its unexpected encounter.
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.
In between storm cycles we observed significant natural avalanche activity. One of the lowest, easternmost slide paths along the Tioga Road slid on the old, faceted snow around December 28 (given buried ski tracks and visitor reports). This slide deposited between six and ten feet of avalanche debris on the Tioga Road. We also observed similar activity in rocky areas below tree line at approximately 10,000 feet. A cornice drop in the upper Unicorn Creek drainage also caused an avalanche that appears to have stepped down into the old snowpack. But this is all old news with another AR (Atmospheric River) on the way. Pay attention to the forecast and be prepared for what Mother Nature has in store. We have the whole year ahead of us!
The 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 New Year!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers