Total settled snow depth: 47 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 55°F (January 27)
Low temperature: 3°F (January 25)
Ski Conditions and WeatherIt’s good to be back posting after the government shutdown. January was a good month for snowfall and skiing in the Tuolumne Meadows area. We measured 73 inches of new snow for the month, and our settled base depth nearly doubled from 24 inches on January 1 to 47 inches today. We just completed the first snow surveys of the winter, and snow depths ranged from 82 inches at our westernmost course at Snow Flat to 57 inches at our easternmost course at Dana Meadow. These numbers are about average for this time of year. It looks like we might get another good shot of precipitation this weekend, so hopefully the Sierra water bank continues to get more deposits than withdrawals…
Ski conditions along Tioga Road and in the wilderness surrounding Tuolumne Meadows are good. Coverage is excellent, except for windswept ridges. This week saw warm temperatures, which have has caused a melt-freeze crust to form on most aspects below 9000 feet. The upper elevations have been hit hard by high winds this month, which have affected all snow surface above tree line. There was corn snow (a granular surface resulting from melting and refreezing) at mid elevations on open south-facing slopes this week. But, given the forecast, this is all about to change. Although it felt like spring at times this week, don’t be fooled—it is still winter. Know how to navigate in poor visibility and always be self-reliant in wilderness.
Avalanche and Snowpack ConditionsFor the avalanche advisory for this area of the Sierra Nevada, refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center.
Presently the avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne Meadows area is low. Warm and dry weather the past ten days and a moderately deep snowpack has stabilized some of the weaker layers that are buried in the snowpack. The hard wind-affected snow surface in alpine terrain has also lowered the avalanche hazard for the time being. As always, snow is dynamic; ski conditions and avalanche hazard are constantly changing. This is one reason why travelling over snow is so interesting, challenging, rewarding, and fun.
WildlifeWhile ascending the southern slopes of Mt. Hoffmann, we paused on a warm flat boulder to have lunch. Moments later, a lone coyote waltzes up less than a hundred feet away. It, however, isn’t interested in our sweaty scent. Instead, it jumps up and plunges its nose through the wind crust and starts kicking snow into the swirling wind. Despite its valiant efforts to locate some morsel, it gives up and beds down in its newly dug hole and joins us for the consolation prize: the grand views of Yosemite Valley below.
General InfoThe Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is firewood and 8 bunks that are available on a first come, first served basis. For those visiting from the east, permits are self-issued at the Ski Hut. For those entering from other areas, please see: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740. There is no phone service in Tuolumne Meadows. We can be contacted regarding winter travel to Tuolumne Meadows via email, but we may be delayed in responding if we are on patrol.
Come prepared, and please make good decisions while traveling in the wilderness!
Laura and Rob Pilewski, Tuolumne Winter Rangers