Update for March 14, 2023

March 14, 2023 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski

New Snow: 52 inches
Settled Snow Depth: 146 inches  
High temperature: 35°F (March 9)
Low temperature: -6°F (March 9)

Ski Conditions and Weather

What a winter! The settled base depth of 146 inches is the highest since 1980, when the snow stake was put in its present location here in Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Camp. The previous high mark was 140 inches set in March of 1983. The recent atmospheric river lived up to its name dropping 5.71 inches of water and 52 inches of new snow in Tuolumne Meadows.

We are busy digging out from the atmospheric river events. As well, we are without commercial power and subsequently have very limited connectivity. We are only able to reply to emails intermittently. In anticipation of that, we wrote the following. Hope you all are safe and sound.

Atmospheric river #1 of March clears over Tuolumne Meadows on March 12, 2023.
Atmospheric river #1 of March clears over Tuolumne Meadows on March 12, 2023.

Plan accordingly for a trip to the Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut!

In a year like this, even the most fit visitors will find it difficult to make it in from the Lee Vining Gate to Tuolumne Meadows in a day especially with a heavy pack. It is a tough balance between being prepared to bivy and traveling light and fast.

The Lee Vining approach to Yosemite remains a mountaineering experience. We recommend an ice axe and crampons in the kit as hard and steep snow will likely be encountered, if not on the way in, then on the way out. Remember snow surface conditions are variable depending on time of day, wind, aspect, and elevation. What might be a moderate boot pack or ski traverse on softer snow may turn into a fearful slide for life scenario on hard snow at another time. To elaborate, the Tioga Road grade has been replaced by steep, consequential, side hill traverses in places by the heavy snow, winds, and avalanches of January. There are countless alternative routes into Tuolumne Meadows, but they too require mountaineering skills. It is not just a “walk in the park” when snow blankets the ground.

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.

We did see wind-slab avalanche activity between storm cycles.

Cornice drop off Lembert Dome occurred on March 11, 2023.
Cornice drop off Lembert Dome occurred on March 11, 2023.


A horned lark flew over Lembert Dome this morning! Brown creepers, white-breasted nuthatches, common raven, Clark’s nutcrackers are all making cameos between storms.

Yosemite Winter History

Winter recreation in Yosemite has a rich history.  Noted author and Sierra historian Gene Rose has written extensively on this topic in his book Magic Yosemite Winters. Gene has graciously given us permission to reference and/or quote his book for our upcoming posts.

“With the hope of an Olympic bid, Tresidder hired Ernst des Baillets, a Swiss national he had met during his European trip, as the park’s winter sports director.”

“Competition to host the first [1932] Winter Games in the United States grew into an intense contest. Three established winter snowplay areas, Yosemite and Lake Tahoe in California, and Lake Placid near Whiteface Mountain in New York emerged as the prime contenders….Lake Placid won…becoming the first American site to host the Winter Olympics.” Ranger Rob worked on the ski patrol at Whiteface Mountain, where the alpine ski events were held, in the late 1980s. This was just after Lake Placid hosted it’s second winter Olympics in 1980. 

“The park might not have won its bid for the 1932 Winter Olympic Games but its winter sports program had helped make Yosemite one of the country’s finest year-round destinations. The Yosemite Winter Club was established, as well as the first ski school in the west. Yosemite had helped found the powerful California Ski Association. Don Tresidder had much to be proud of.”

[Magic Yosemite Winters, Gene Rose. Cold Stream Press, 1999. Pgs. 23 and 41.]

Additional information: Toboggan runs, ice skating competitions, and a bid for the Winter Olympics – Yosemite National Park

Four historic images, left to right: Two people at the end of a toboggan run, people curling in Yosemite Valley, the Yosemite Winter Club hockey team, and a young woman ice skating in fancy costume.
From left to right: Two track toboggan with rope conveyer, 1928; Curling, 1929; Yosemite Winter Club hockey team; ice skating, early 1930s.


Avalanche resulting from Cornice drop Lembert Dome occurred on March 11, 2023.
Avalanche resulting from Cornice drop Lembert Dome occurred on March 11, 2023.
Because the the park is currently closed, the Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open though inaccessible. This primitive cabin is the campground reservation office in the summer and is located along the Tioga Road at the entrance to the campground. It is marked with a sign. 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!

Please check the park website and official social media accounts for updates regarding reopening. 

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. 

Stay Safe!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers

Last updated: March 14, 2023

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