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Skier on Tenaya Lake on February 23, 2019 (Pilewski)

Yosemite Winter Rangers: Snowpack And Grosbeaks

YOSEMITE — Tuolumne Winter Rangers Laura and Rob Pilewski latest report from the field indicates snowpack conditions are above average for this time of year, and the grosbeaks are chirping in the pines.

New snow: 14 inches
Total settled snow depth: 90 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 40°F (February 26)
Low temperature: -12°F (February 22)

Ski Conditions and Weather

February is going out warm and wet. Our thermometer here hit the 40°F mark for the first time this month yesterday, and our precipitation gauge had another 0.52 inches of water in it this morning with more in the forecast. There were a few sunny days this week that gave us a window of good travel weather to complete the monthly snow surveys. Average snow depths at our courses ranged from 142 inches at Snow Flat to 99 inches at Dana Meadow. The amount of water in this snow is above average for the March 1 snow surveys.

High winds out of the NE and SW this week have had continued impacts on high elevation ski conditions. Scouring and drifting, wind crust, wind board and, if one is persistent in the hunt, wind-blown powder can all be found above tree line presently. Below tree line, the snow coverage is much more uniform and the ski conditions are better. The trail breaking along the Tioga Road east and west of Tuolumne Meadows was initially deep and arduous, but the warmer temperatures and higher density snow has consolidated the snow surface more to allow for faster travel.

As of this writing Highway 120 has not been plowed above the USFS office in Lee Vining Canyon which adds about two miles to an already lengthy approach to Tuolumne Meadows from the east. The Poole Power Plant road is also unmaintained at this time and impassable to vehicular traffic. If one is ambitious enough for this trek, be advised that crampons and/or an ice axe may be warranted on the approach to Tioga Pass for the remainder of the ski season especially where there may be avalanche or wind deposited snow, and/or that rain crust!

Pywiak Dome and Tenaya Peak on February 21, 2019 (Pilewski)

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions

Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.

Presently the avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne Meadows area is low. Wind slabs continue to be the main hazard and these will primarily be found in the alpine terrain on lee slopes. Lee slopes are not always obvious, as the wind direction in the Sierra Nevada is quite variable and is known to change, especially immediately following or in between storms. Visitors to the wilderness should always get up-to-date avalanche and weather forecasts prior to their trip.


Animal kill near pine marten tracks on February 23, 2019 (Pilewski)

For the second month in a row, we saw and heard a Pine grosbeak chirping from the very top of a western white pine at Snow Flat. On our way back home through Tuolumne Meadows there were numerous pine marten and rodent tracks. It appeared that one vole may have met its fate — not from all the predators on the ground, but from above via a bird.

General Information

The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is firewood and eight bunks that are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

There is no phone service in Tuolumne Meadows. We can be contacted regarding winter travel to Tuolumne Meadows via email, but we may be delayed in responding if we are on patrol.

For those visiting the Tuolumne Ski Hut from the east (only) permits are self-issued at the ski hut. For those entering from other areas, visit this link or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740.

Come prepared, and please make good decisions while travelling in the wilderness.

Happy Skiing!

Laura and Rob Pilewski – Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers

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