New Snow: 1 inch
Settled Snow Depth: 101 inches
High temperature: 46°F (January 26)
Low temperature: -4°F (January 29)
January Weather Summary
New Snow: 181 inches (Historical Average: 60.7 inches)
Snow Water Equivalent: 13.71 inches (Historical Average: 5.05 inches)
High Temperature: 32.48°F (Historical Average: 40.2°F)
Low Temperature: 10.25°F (Historical Average: 10.0°F)
Average Temperature: 21.36°F (Historical Average: 25.4°F)
Tuolumne Meadows Living Conditions
We are halfway through this month’s round of snow surveys and just got back from one of the more rustic outposts, where we melt snow for water and cook over a wood burning stove. This month we found the stove pipe under ten feet of snow! After digging the cabin out and sampling the Tenaya Lake and Snow Flat courses we left first light to mitigate the hazard beneath the shooting gallery of Spring Hill east of Tenaya Lake where large cornices and ice falls loom overhead. We always breathe a sigh of relief after another successful passage.
Now back in Tuolumne Meadows, we are ready to take our ski boots off, sit back, and relax in a house that is plenty spacious by our standards (less cleaning the smaller it is). Admittedly, the kitchen is small, so we take turns cooking. Many have asked recently what we do to unwind and relax. Like most people, we value all types of entertainment both in the mountains and in the city whether it be dancing, playing music, reading a book, watching a movie, or playing word games.
Yes, for the most part, the winter rangers are just like you, although to some, we may seem like astronauts living on a snowier planet. I think we all pine for “the simple days” where we aren’t attached to our devices and where we aren’t stuck in traffic. So long as we use these machines for positive forms of communications and spend some time in nature (even if it’s your backyard) you too can experience the joys of being a “wilderness” ranger.
We hope that this section has answered the many individual requests and inquiries as of late. As always, we are happy to share our experiences in this magical place with everyone.
The snow surveys this week gave us the opportunity to escape our Tuolumne Meadows “bubble” and have a good look around at the rest of our patrol area. The ski conditions were good for putting in the miles, though the heat of the days did see some gloppy snow looking for a free ride by attaching itself to the bottom of our skis. A scraper and fresh coat of glide wax put an end to that freeloader! The snow surface is wind affected across all elevations and aspects. Shady and sheltered locations are holding the best snow for skiing. This is a type of snow known by many names. We’ll go with “recycled powder” for this writing.
Ski Conditions and Weather
A dusting of new snow freshened things up a bit over the weekend although pine needles, branches, and even trees, still litter the surface. There are presently good touring conditions along the Tioga Road and in the meadows and drainages.
Aside from wind scoured slopes in the alpine, snow coverage is excellent for this time of year even on many south facing slopes. The average snow depth of our snow surveys completed so far is 122 inches and the central Sierra Nevada is presently above the April 1 average for snow water content.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions
The avalanche hazard has lowered considerably since the heavy snows of January subsided two weeks ago. The primary hazards, though low and ever changing with the weather of the day, are from wind slabs and wet loose avalanches. We did not observe any recent avalanches or signs of instability this week. There are, however, some impressive glide cracks opening up on some of the steep granite slopes of the many domes in the Tuolumne Meadows area.
As some of you may recall, earlier this season we took advantage of a bear that broke trail for us through Dana Meadows. Well, lo and behold, the karmic favor was returned this week as a smaller pawed bear followed our ski tracks for several miles along the Tioga Road from Medlicott to Cottage Domes. We were quite relieved to see the prints deviate from the road at that point as we were wondering if they would lead us all the way back home to our porridge and bed!
According to one of the wildlife biologists in Yosemite National Park, “Generally people assume once it snows the bears are hibernating, but they aren’t all hibernating this winter! Bears won’t always hibernate if they have enough food to make it through the winter. This year was a big acorn year for certain species of oak trees, so bears are still eating enough to sustain them.”
If only the bears heeded the advice of Ranger Carter who staffs the Badger Pass Ranger Station (A-frame): “Please never walk or hike on the ski trails as post hole damage (however shallow) is long lasting and presents real hazards to yourself as well as all other winter recreators.”
The 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 the Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut from the east (only) permits are self-issued at the ski hut. For those entering from other areas, please see Yosemite’s website: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm (#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.
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers