New snow: 9 inches
Total settled snow depth: 12 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 54°F (January 29)
Low temperature: -5°F (January 26)
Ski Conditions and Weather
While doing the first snow surveys of the season this week we had a chance to see what this winter has amounted to thus far throughout our patrol area. The good news is that we were able to keep our skis on (no walking) for the 50 mile journey. The bad news is that the snowpack is woefully lean for this time of year, and we are in the midst of a warm spell that is seeing more water withdrawals from the Sierra Nevada snow bank daily. Snow depths at the snow courses averaged from 13 ½ inches at Tenaya Lake (8,150 feet) up to 36 inches at Rafferty Meadow (9,400 feet). The water content of the snow was also quite low.
Presently the ski conditions are good for touring along the Tioga Road, in drainages, and area meadows. Good powder snow still exists above 9,200 feet on north aspects for making turns. South aspects are mostly bare and east and west aspects are a grab bag of sun and wind affected snow and bare ground. In general, it is spring skiing in June-uary out there folks!
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 avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne area is currently low. Warm temperatures have helped to stabilize the snowpack following the last snowfall. Prior to, and just after, the 9 inches of snow that fell on January 24 there was a period of high SW winds that formed wind slabs on lee slopes. These wind slabs were touchy and easily triggered. We observed several small pockets of wind slab that avalanched during this wind event especially in areas where there was icy snow remaining from last winter.
The usual suspects were out and about this week. Coyote and pine marten seemed more active and curious, and less afraid as we skied nearby. With these warm temperatures, perhaps, they are confusing us with the summer visitors who inappropriately “drop” their food more often. Large flocks of dark-eyed juncos followed us along the shores of Tenaya Lake which has yet to freeze solid this winter.
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.
Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Winter Rangers