Total settled snow depth: 51 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 54°F (March 18)
Low temperature: 15°F (March 20)
Ski Conditions and Weather: It was warm and dry this week until a quick moving disturbance brought colder temperatures and five inches of new snow to Tuolumne Meadows on March 21. The ski conditions were very spring like in the Tuolumne Meadows area, while at the higher elevations the north aspects still held cold and dry snow conditions. The powder skiing is still quite good above 9,500 feet on north and north east aspects and the new snow will only improve things. The other aspects have variable conditions with frozen and crusty snow in the early hours of the day, and wetter and softer snow as the day heats up. The south aspects are starting to melt out at the middle elevations. The forecast calls for a return to warm and sunny days through the weekend so we anticipate a continuation of the conditions outlined above. Snow line is still hovering around the 9,000 elevation in Lee Vining canyon.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions: For the avalanche advisory for this area of the Sierra Nevada go to www.esavalanche.org for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center.
The warm and dry conditions that dominated the weather this week has led to a mostly stable snowpack. We did observe some wet loose avalanches around Unicorn Peak. These wet slides started as small point releases as the sun warmed up the unconsolidated snow from last week around rock bands and picked up more snow as they slid down hill. There were some sizeable piles of debris in the flatter terrain below. These avalanches have become less frequent as the snow surface has gone through numerous melt freeze cycles and as there is a lack of new unconsolidated snow. Newly formed wind slabs from the disturbance on March 21 are likely to be found in the alpine zone on north and east aspects. This hazard should lessen with the warm weather forecast for the remainder of the week.
Wildlife: Spring has sprung in Tuolumne Meadows this week as numerous bird species have returned to the high country for the breeding season. American robins, mountain bluebirds and violet-green swallows have been seen and heard on numerous occasions. One lone killdeer has already laid claim to the Soda Springs. I’m sure he will have no problem attracting a mate with that slice of prime real estate!
Questions: The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open! There is firewood and 10 bunks that are available on a first come, first served basis. There is power but no public phone service in Tuolumne Meadows this winter. We can be contacted via email at Robert_Pilewski@nps.gov, 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; don't count on phone service at the ski hut.
Happy Spring Equinox!
Laura and Rob Pilewski