Update for March 20, 2023

March 20, 2024 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski

Flat snowy area with snowy forested mountains in the background; snow banners blow from the peaks on a cloudy day

  Mounts Dana and Gibbs and a mighty wind starting to blow, March 13, 2024.

New Snow: 4 inches

Settled Snow Depth: 52 inches

High temperature: 48°F (March 17)

Low temperature:   7°F (March 13)

Ski Conditions and Weather

The first couple of days this week brought strong northeast winds to the area. This caused much of the surface snow on north aspects to sublimate into the ether. We observed inverted, or raised, ski tracks on the north slopes above Tuolumne Meadows that previously were laden with pristine powder snow. What Mother Nature provideth she also taketh away…

Now the Sierra is in the midst of its first big warm up of the season. Highs are forecast to be in the 50s this week and it is starting to look, feel, and ski like spring. Water is running down the local granite slabs and the river is starting to open up.

The snow surface in low-angle terrain at middle elevations has now gone through enough melt-freeze cycles to allow for fast travel on supportable snow until the heat of the day has enough time to turn into a slushy corn variation.

As March 19, Tioga Road is dry pavement from the Lee Vining gate to the Warren Fork (9,000 feet). Snowline to the west starts conveniently at the top of the Snow Creek switchbacks around 7,000 feet.

Yosemite Nature Notes has been filming at Tuolumne Meadows this week, so be on the lookout for an upcoming episode featuring “Tuolumne Meadows in Winter”!  

View from above looking down a snowy canyon with a few snow-covered lakes on a cloudy day
Tioga Lake and Lee Vining Canyon, March 14, 2024

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 Park.The main hazard this week was for wet loose or slab avalanches with the warming temperatures. Given the current forecast, temperatures should drop and concerns will switch back to new snow and wind loading.

History of Snow Surveys

During the great western drought of 2010-2015 [which we experienced in Tuolumne Meadows firsthand when Tioga Pass didn’t close until January 17, 2012, because there was no snow], Tom Painter, a faculty member of the University of Utah, was approached by NASA-Jet Propulsion Lab about the possibility of using some of their space-age technology to provide better measurements of the snowpack and the projected run-off” (Rose, 172). This Lidar technology (Light Detection and Ranging) is now used throughout the Sierra Nevada. Further reading:

In the early years we met with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab crews at Tioga Pass to help ground-truth their instrumentation in the Tuolumne watershed. Now, the data snow surveyors gather with their original Mt. Rose snow sampler still helps refine these measurements.

Large black tarp laid upon plowed road surrounded by snow at Tioga Pass
Black tarp used to caliabrate Lidar in March 2018.


While on patrol this week on Mt. Gaylor, we were treated to a flyby by an impressive resident of Lee Vining Canyon: a golden eagle. It was a blustery morning on the Sierra Crest and through the low clouds and at at eye level, the eagle glided by on the winds without the need to beat its wings. We frequently see this large raptor flying above the canyon. Earlier, while surveying for whitebark pinecones we spooked a white-tailed jackrabbit that was sheltering in the wind sculpted snow at the base of the tree. Better keep one eye to the sky little buddy!


The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. 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/wildfaq.htm#winter or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740. As of this writing, there is electricity and limited phone service in Tuolumne Meadows.

Come prepared, and please make good decisions while traveling in the wilderness!Read through the following three 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.  


Rose, Gene. Snow Warriors: The Heroic Trail of the Early Snow Surveyors. Gene Rose, 2022.

Happy Spring Equinox!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers


Last updated: March 20, 2024

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