This is our final post of the season. It has been a remarkable winter in this special part of Yosemite National Park. We appreciate all of the comments and thoughtful questions that we have received from our readers throughout this most memorable of Tuolumne Meadows winters. We especially appreciate the concern for our safety as the parade of atmospheric rivers continued to slam the Sierra Nevada all winter long.
Spring has arrived in earnest. The mercury almost hit 60°F yesterday and more warm and dry weather is forecast for the coming week. The changes that the warming trend and diminishing snowpack bring with it have just begun.
Winter kept an icy grip on Tuolumne Meadows on this alleged first full week of spring. We had to do a double take when looking at the thermometer yesterday morning when packing to go to Vogelsang for the snow survey. “15°F, pretty cold out there; wait a minute, is that a minus sign in front of the 15?! Yowza!”
The calendar on the wall says today is the spring equinox but it sure looks and feels like mid-winter out there. Several weather systems hit the Sierra Nevada this week adding more water to the snowpack and nudging the snow depth back above 140 inches.
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.
The most recent storm exited the area Monday night and it will take a few days before the ski conditions settle. The snow that has fallen over the past two weeks was very low density, averaging about 5% water content. The March 1 snow surveys were completed between February 22 and March 3. It was more of an adventure this go round as it snowed 109 inches during this ten-day window.
February 22, 2023Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
It was a cold and dry week here in Tuolumne Meadows. Low temperatures were below zero for five days, though the last several days have seen a bit of a warmup. The forecast for the coming week indicates that a change is in store. Unsettled weather is forecast to start Tuesday and continue through the week. This week’s warmer weather brought out the sights and sounds of both the black-backed and hairy woodpeckers.
February 16, 2023Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The mercury topped 50°F this week for the first time in nearly two months. There was also a wind event over the weekend that saw northeast winds in excess of 50 mph for a 24-hour period. Ski conditions fluctuate from day to day with the weather du jour. 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.
February 01, 2023Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
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! 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 skies finally cleared over the Sierra Nevada this week. Par for the course, the epic, powder-filled snowstorms of the past three weeks have been replaced by windstorms. Today on our day off, while the winds are exceeding 100 miles per hour at the highest of elevations, we are baking our first loaf of sourdough bread of the season...
Wake up. Hydrate. Start a fire in the wood stove. Drink strong coffee. Stare into the fire. Grab a grunt bar (aka protein bar). Emerge from our snow cave. Break trail up the forested area near Lembert Dome in a tempest to stretch the legs and assess avalanche hazard. Ski home. Eat brunch. Shovel for four hours. Eat dinner. Rinse. Repeat.
It was another wet week in the Golden State. Here at 8,600 feet in the central Sierra Nevada the precipitation fell as snow, and we now have over 100 inches HS (Height of Snow) on the ground. This is the earliest we have hit the century mark in our twelve winters in Tuolumne Meadows. With new snow that is this deep, it is going to take a minimum of a day or two of settlement to make traveling any distances a reasonable or safe affair.
It truly felt like a new year when we returned to Tuolumne Meadows this week. What an impressive winter scene was here to greet us! There is now about six feet of snow on the ground here at 8,600 feet and almost 100 inches above 9,500 feet.
December 20, 2022Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
It was a cold, dry week here in Tuolumne Meadows (week of December 11). And dare we say, it has been an uncommonly calm period in regard to the wind. Overnight lows were below zero and daytime highs hovered around forty. As we approach the winter solstice the low angle of the sun does not have as much affect on the snow surface as during other times of the year.
December 14, 2022Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Greetings winter wilderness enthusiasts and fans of Tuolumne Meadows! We have arrived to start another season as the Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers. For the first time in twelve years, we were able to ski from the Lee Vining gate on December 4, 2022 to start our season!
his is our final post of the 2021-2022 season. It has again been an honor and pleasure to serve in the capacity of the Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers. When we arrived in early December, we were soon buried by the 171 inches of new snow that fell over the next three weeks. Just when we thought we couldn’t shovel anymore, the faucet turned off. We certainly did not anticipate the remaining four consecutive months to be the driest on record.
The March weather summary tells the tale of the third month in a row of much drier and warmer weather for the winter. Equally concerning are the snow survey results for the April 1 surveys which historically indicate the peak of water content in the Sierra Nevada snowpack. The Tuolumne River drainage comes in at 41% of “average” for snow water equivalent.
The weather this week brought us the best corn snow cycle of the season so far. Although the high temperatures were well above seasonal averages, overnight lows were just cold enough to ensure a freezing of the upper snowpack. To end the week a low-pressure trough brought the most snow in a single storm that we have recorded here in Tuolumne Meadows since December 30.
Spring has sprung here in Tuolumne Meadows. The mating calls of birds and sound of rushing water now compete with the sound of the wind in the trees. The forecast is calling for near record high temperatures this week which will sadly accelerate the snow melt. Our snow stake has been holding steady above 30 inches since the snows of December blanketed the Sierra seemingly forever ago.
It was a dry week with temperatures near seasonal norms. Not much has changed as of our lasting posting in regards to ski conditions or weather. With the daylight hours now stretching into the evening, being outdoors now has more of a spring feel to it. In Tuolumne Meadows the ponds and streams are quickly changing from aquamarine slush to running water.
In only seven days, we had a representation of practically all four seasons’ weather. It started with freezing overnight temperatures and warm days of spring, and the abundant sunshine of summer. The latter half of the week saw a return to winter with snow showers and cold temperatures. To finish the week there was a return to the dreaded northeast winds.
February 2022 was another warmer and drier than average month. Two for two. This week started with some of the coldest temperatures of the winter and ended with temperatures well above seasonal averages.
February 22, 2022Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
We had the first measurable snowfall in 53 days at our weather plot this week. Although the Sierra Nevada is known for extended periods of dry weather between winter storms, this is a record dry stretch during what is typically the snowiest months. High winds were also in the mix this week with wind speeds over the Sierra Crest in excess of 100 mph (measured on February 22).
February 18, 2022Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The average high temperature was 52°F over the past seven days. This is twelve degrees higher than the February average of 40°F. The warm sunny days have resulted in a melt freeze cycle at the snow surface on most aspects below 10,000 feet. The sounds of snow melt pouring off of the local granite domes and the Tuolumne River can now be heard on a windless day.
February 09, 2022Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Groundhog Day has come and gone, and although we don’t trust the “science” of having a large rodent predict the weather, we do feel like we are experiencing the Bill Murray version of Groundhog Day: waking daily to yet another dry winter’s day.
February 01, 2022Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
While compiling the January weather data yesterday we were struck by how easy it was to add up the precipitation column, no calculator needed. One lone entry on January 8 told the tale of a record dry month at our weather plot here in Tuolumne Meadows. The good news is that the heavy snows of December have left a central Sierra Nevada snowpack that is still 92% of “normal” for February 1.
It was a dry week with temperatures above seasonal averages. The high temperature this week of 58°F resulted in a thin melt freeze crust forming on most aspects here at the middle elevations. Strong winds out of the east on January 14 has littered much of the snow surface with tree debris (needles, cones, etc.). Above tree-line the snow surface runs the gamut of wind affected snow.
"Another year over and a new one just begun." The last month of 2021 brought 37% of the annual average precipitation to the Tuolumne Meadows weather plot. We ranged a bit further this week on patrol as the snow settled and we gained headway on our maintenance projects (snow removal).
December 29, 2021Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Christmas delivered all the goods that winter enthusiasts could have asked for: abundant snowfall, cold temperatures, and settled snow depth of six feet. With the additional 78 inches of new snow measured here in Tuolumne Meadows this week, this is now the snowiest December on record (since 1980).
December 23, 2021Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
This is our first post of the 2021-22 winter season. When we started work on December 5 here in Tuolumne Meadows, the ground was mostly bare. This was the driest we have seen it for this time of year since our first winter of 2011-12. Thankfully, Mother Nature decided to turn on winter in earnest shortly after our arrival. Several winter storms, highlighted by a potent atmospheric river event on December 13-15, have blanketed the Sierra Nevada in its white winter coat.
This week continued the March trend of wintry weather. We measured 1.6 inches of snow water equivalent in the 20 inches of snow that fell here in Tuolumne Meadows. It looks like March, however, is going to be yet another month this season that comes in below average.
It was a wintry week in the mountains. Colder than normal temperatures and a few weather disturbances brought some much needed precipitation to the Sierra Nevada. However, this snow was quite low density with only 0.71 inches of water. Ski conditions presently fall into the “mid-winter” category. A prolonged dry spell and a melt/freeze cycle could result in some spring ski conditions.
Winter weather has returned to the Sierra. Although the week started warm and dry, as of this writing a cold low pressure system is bringing snow showers and below-average temperatures to the area. This new snow will result in a delay to the spring ski conditions and a return to more of a winter feel for now.
Yosemite National Park completed the monthly snow surveys this week and the results show a drier than normal snowpack for the Tuolumne River Basin. The basin is at 56% of the April 1 average. The snowpack is becoming a bit more spring-like....
February 25, 2021Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Wind and sun pretty much sums up the ski conditions and weather for the week, and this winter season so far. Visitors to the alpine zone above tree line should anticipate hard surface conditions and be prepared with an ice-axe and crampons if traveling in steeper terrain. Touring conditions are good, though corn snow has been elusive so far.
February 17, 2021Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Like the rest of the country, it was a wintry week in the Tuolumne Meadows area. Three weather disturbances came through, leaving fresh snow in their wake. Our thermometer hit a season low of -10°F this morning. Like we mentioned in our last post, if one is patient, the dynamic nature of snow ensures that surface conditions will eventually improve.
February 12, 2021Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The warm temperatures and high winds this week have changed the snow surface, and subsequently, the ski conditions. Any aspect that received a direct hit from the sun this week now has a sun crust on the surface, overlying the powder from the late January storm. There are some very hard snow surfaces out there and a “slide for life” is possible on steeper terrain. Anyone traveling in the alpine zone should carry an ice-axe and crampons to keep their options open and safe.
February 03, 2021Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The first significant snowstorm of the winter hit the Sierra Nevada in earnest, leaving a deep blanket of snow. The impressive snow totals were the result of an atmospheric river (AR) moisture tap colliding with a cold air mass. In spite of this whopper of a storm, our snowpack is still below average for the winter in regard to water content.
The wind storm is over! Mono winds can reach speeds of 50 to over 100 mph. According to the National Weather Service, they are localized winds that typically start east of the central Sierra often near Mono Lake and then travel up and over the mountains to the western foothills gaining speed as they descend, especially once they hit funneling terrain features (like canyons). The warm temperatures, followed by the high winds, have left a mixed bag of snow surfaces out there.
The weather this week was warm, dry, and windy. On a brighter note…..ski conditions, particularly for ski touring, are pretty decent considering the shallow snowpack. Coverage is best along trail corridors, broad drainages and on north facing slopes above 8,000 feet.
This is the first post of the 2020-2021 winter season. We are grateful to be working as the Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers again this year. Returning to Tuolumne Meadows for our 10th winter really does feel like coming home. It is good to see the landscape in its winter coat of white. Several weather systems came through over the past few weeks and left snow in their wake.
Yosemite National Park remains closed due to COVID-19. Based on the calendar on the wall and the weather forecast for the next ten days, it would appear that winter is over. This is our final post of the 2019-20 winter season. We wish you well and hope to “ski you next winter.”
Yosemite Park remains closed due to COVID-19. Our hearts go out to all those affected by this pandemic. Take comfort friends in knowing that wild nature remains unchanged here in this part of Yosemite. The opportunity to be standing by peaceful waters will again return for us all.
It feels like the return to winter in more ways than one. Although Tuolumne Meadows is covered in a fresh blanket of white, all is quiet this chilly, sub-zero morning. Even the songs of spring are subdued. Yosemite National Park is closed. Stay healthy and take care of one another. Hats off to the health care workers on the front lines of this pandemic. Let’s have their back by following the guidance of the CDC and local officials.
Winter returned to the Sierra Nevada this week. Cold temperatures and much needed precipitation fell over the past five days and unsettled weather is forecast to continue through the last days of March. Ski conditions and snow coverage are now much improved.
It was another dry and windy week in the central Sierra. The recent storm that came off of the Pacific went too far south to provide the much-needed moisture to this area. Snow coverage continues to shrink and the south-facing aspects are becoming more bare with each passing sunny day. There are still ample opportunities for ski touring and conditions are quite good. However, pay attention to the forecast as winter may return to the mountains. Come prepared.
We were delighted to wake up on March 1 to fluffy, white snow blanketing the ground! Coming on the heels of the driest February ever measured at our weather plot, it sure was a welcome sight. But what Mother Nature giveth, she can also taketh away...
February 26, 2020Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
After measuring the snowpack during our snow surveys this week, we found that there have been four drier and four wetter winters (based on the water content of the snow that is presently on the ground) over the nine winters we have worked here. Like a good friend and avalanche forecaster once reminded us, one only sees “normal” on a graph. Mother Nature usually plots those dots above or below the mean.
February 19, 2020Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The dry weather pattern continued this week. Daytime highs were in the mid 40s and overnight lows dropped into the teens. The snow surface at the middle elevations has now gone through enough melt freeze cycles to make for decent touring conditions.
February 13, 2020Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
It was a warm and dry week in the central Sierra. A weather disturbance came through over the weekend, but only left three feet of wind and one inch of snow in its wake. The ski conditions are variable out there presently depending on aspect and elevation.
February 05, 2020Posted by: Rob and Laura Pilewski
To call the present state of the ski conditions “interesting” would be generous. The first part of this week had very spring like weather with warm temperatures, hitting a near record high of 60°F on Saturday. This was followed by a frigid return of winter temperatures less than 48 hours later when the mercury bottomed out at -9°F. The winds that were calm one day, peaked at over 100 mph over the Sierra crest the next...
We have been out doing the February 1 snow surveys this week. This has given us an opportunity to measure snow depth and water content and to ski across a large cross section of Yosemite National Park. Our measurements so far indicate a snowpack, based on water content that is approximately 40% of the April 1 average. In spite of the dry January, there is still three to five feet of snow on the ground and the ski conditions and snow coverage overall remain good.
This week saw unsettled weather with cloudy skies, windy conditions, and some welcomed precipitation. Though January is still well below average for new snow and water, the ski conditions and snow coverage remain good.
It was cold and dry in the Tuolumne Meadows area this week. Although there were a few brief snow showers they only amounted to one inch of new snow over the course of the last seven days. The snow depth and coverage has changed very little since the start of the New Year.
Just when snow conditions looked promising, colder, windy conditions prevailed. Now it’s a grab bag of sun crust, wind crust, supportable crust and bust through a crust which is a bit safer than “slide for life” which also lurks out there.
It was a mostly dry, cold, and windy week in the Yosemite high country. Several weather systems passed by to the west bringing only a few snow showers to Tuolumne Meadows, and leaving strong northeast winds in their wake. Christmas night saw an interesting “lake effect” snow event in the Mono Basin favoring the east side. Ski conditions are a mixed bag out there presently.
December 25, 2019Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers got what they wanted for Christmas once again; a nice cold storm hit the central Sierra Nevada this week and dropped 15 inches of low density snow in the Tuolumne Meadows area and upwards of two feet on north aspects above 9,000 feet. Ski conditions are excellent and much improved over the pine needle, littered old snow surface that existed prior to the storm.
December 18, 2019Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
This is the first post of the 2019-2020 winter season. We skied up Hwy. 120 from Lee Vining on December 14 and entered the park via Tioga Pass and Tioga Road. Snow depths averaged from 36 inches+ at Tioga Pass to around 30 inches at Tuolumne Meadows. These are some of the best early season conditions we have seen in our eight winters here. We are delighted to be working in Tuolumne Meadows again this winter!
This is our last post of the winter 2018-2019 season and it is time for us to migrate south to our summer range in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. It has again been a great honor and pleasure serving the public as the Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers. No two seasons are the same in this range of light, snow, and wind. But, every one spent in Tuolumne Meadows is a special one.
The weather and ski conditions this week were nearly a carbon copy of last week. We still have not had an extended period of high pressure ridging to bring warm/dry weather to the central Sierra this ski season for more than just a few days at a time. There was six inches of new snow on our snow stake this morning, further delaying the corn harvest. However, snow depths and coverage remain excellent in the Tuolumne Meadows area.
This week saw a few weak weather disturbances move through the area with some sunny warm days in between. There were a few nights that saw only a light overnight freeze that caused the upper snowpack to become wet and collapsible during the heat of the day. Wilderness travelers should consider how overnight temperatures affect the snowpack at this time of year.
This week saw typical unsettled spring conditions with everything from thunder-snow squalls, high winds, corn snow and soft powder. In between all of that, we had three full days of Sierra Nevada blue skies, and temperatures near 50°F which made for a good melt freeze cycle below 9,500 feet on most aspects. It’s going to be a long ski season this year.
One hundred and seven days ago we skied away from our vehicle and into the Tuolumne Meadows wilderness to start our winter season. It is snowing again today after a brief three day window of dry weather and seasonal temperatures. The Tuolumne Meadows snow stake still reads 90 inches and the coverage is good on all aspects above 8,000 feet. This deep, dense snowpack at our snow survey courses tells us that the road crews will have their work cut out for them this spring.
Spring sprung a week early in the high country and after such an intense winter we can’t say we were too disappointed. We temporarily put down our shovels and headed south on a wilderness patrol (the opposite direction of most critters this time of year). The touring conditions were quite good with minimal trail breaking and fast travel. Snow conditions were a mixed bag at most aspects and elevations.
Mother Nature left no snowflake unturned this week. We spent the past three days at Tioga Pass, where the winds howled. Initially, the winds were out of the north, and yesterday they turned back around to the southwest with speeds clocked near 100 mph along the crest. It was an impressive scene as the high winds blew huge plumes of snow to the lee sides of mountain peaks against a backdrop of an otherwise deep blue sky.
It was another snowy week here in Tuolumne Meadows with measurable snow recorded on five out of seven days. Ski conditions at all elevations were quite good this week. The dense new snow bonded well, for the most part, to the hard wind affected snow in the alpine zone giving it that “cream cheese” texture....
February 27, 2019Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
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.
February 20, 2019Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
This week continued the February weather trend of cold and wet. The week is now ending with a cold “inside slider” storm that is forecast to bring a few more inches of snow and below average temperatures. Our weather plot here in Tuolumne Meadows broke the 40 year record for February snowfall this week when it exceeded the previous record of 174 inches set in 1998. Despite this fact, it hasn’t broken the record for water content due to the cold, low density snow.
February 13, 2019Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
It was nice to see the sun for a bit this week. There was a storm that brought 32 inches of low density snow to the area over the past weekend. Low temperatures were south of zero degrees Fahrenheit for five of the seven days. Trail breaking became easier with each passing day and the powder skiing conditions were excellent.
February 06, 2019Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
This week saw an impressive return to winter with a series of storms that dropped a whopping 97 inches of new snow with a 6.21 inches of snow water equivalency over a five day period. The finale to this event was 38 inches of new snow in a 24 hour period, and plummeting temperatures that hit a low of -20 degrees F last night!
January was a good month for snowfall and skiing in the Tuolumne area. We just completed the first snow surveys of the winter, and snow depths ranged from 82” at Snow Flat to 57” at Dana Meadow. These numbers are about average for this time of year. It looks like we might get another good shot of precipitation this weekend, so hopefully the Sierra water bank continues to get more deposits than withdrawals…
December 26, 2018Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
This week started out quite warm and is ending with a return to more seasonal temperatures. Several small storms came through and left new snow in their wake. Christmas Eve saw whiteout conditions for a few hours, but this quickly cleared out so that Santa could find his way to Tuolumne Meadows.
December 19, 2018Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
We arrived to Tuolumne Meadows on December 12. When we arrived, the Tuolumne Meadows snow stake read 27 inches and there was 4.75 inches of snow water equivalent in the precipitation gauge. Just what the doctor ordered….big wet storms laying down a fine, dense, ski base on bare ground! Ski conditions are excellent for this time of year and the touring and turning opportunities are limitless.
This is our final post of the winter of 2018. Several storms came through the central Sierra Nevada this week leaving fresh snow and cold temperatures in their wake. This time of year the new snow generally melts pretty fast and the base depth continues to shrink.
Although it did not snow in Tuolumne Meadows this week, we did receive 2.11 inches of water in the form of rain. This was a significant weather event in that the rain fell on deep snow over a short period of time and caused the Tuolumne River to flood its banks in numerous places. As for the skiing…..even though the area has lost significant snow depth with the rain and warm temperatures this week, the rain soaked snow that remains is set up for good spring travel.
This week was dominated by spring weather and ski conditions. High temperatures were in the 50°F’s each day with lows below freezing overnight. This is the perfect recipe for corn snow to develop at the snow surface. It did not take long to make this transition from winter to spring snow after a cold and snowy March. Conditions will be changing yet again as an approaching “atmospheric river” weather event will impact the area Thursday night through Saturday.
Spring has arrived to Tuolumne Meadows. This week, the weather held (in chronological order): rain, heavy snow, thundersnow, southwest wind, northeast wind and, now, sun. The low-density snow that fell at the end of the storm made for some fine, but ephemeral, powder ski conditions. The last two days, a significant upslope wind event has changed these conditions in the alpine terrain dramatically, redistributing snow from lee to windward slopes.
Although the calendar stated that spring had sprung, Mother Nature realized she had some catching up to do for the winter. We received 33 inches of snow with over two inches of water this week, with more to come. It felt more like mid-January than late March this week. The cold temperatures and calm winds kept the snow clinging to the trees and the snow surface, dry and powdery.
The weather this week was dominated by spring like temperatures and ski conditions, although dry powder snow could still be found on north aspects, and at the highest elevations. The snow surface elsewhere was more spring like after numerous melt freeze cycles this week. Of course, that is all now buried beneath the six inches (and counting) of high density snow that fell last night.....
Alas, a real winter storm hit the Sierra Nevada this week! Now it’s starting to live up to its namesake. We measured 51 inches of new snow at our weather plot over a four day period, which is one inch more than the total snowfall for the three month period December through February.
February 28, 2018Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Winter returned to the Yosemite high country this week with cold temperatures, high winds and newly fallen snow (8 inches). The results from our snow surveys this week indicate a slightly deeper snowpack, but similar snow water content to the historically dry winter of 2015.
February 21, 2018Posted by: Rob and Laura Pilewski
Well, we sure jinxed it on our last post when we said the wind storm had passed through. It had just gotten started. We won’t sugar coat it. Last week held some of the worst (but let’s hope not the last) skiing of the season…with the exception of skiing along the rivers and meadows.
February 14, 2018Posted by: Rob and Laura Pilewski
Last week held some of the best (and let’s hope not the last) ski touring of the season. To get to the high elevations, however, one has to contend with the ice flows that have formed on most of the trail corridors (wear ice cleats if you’re hiking at mid elevations).
February 07, 2018Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The daily high temperature for the past nine days has been over 50°F. The snow has gone through many melt-freeze cycles on all but the most sheltered north aspects at the higher elevations. Bare ground continues to be more prevalent in the Tuolumne Meadows area with each passing warm and dry day. The Tioga Road is still mostly snow covered from the park boundary at Tioga Pass to Tuolumne Meadows. On the east side, the road is patchy snow above 9000 feet, and then mostly snow
While doing the first snow surveys of the season this week we had a chance to see what this winter has amounted to thus far throughout our patrol area. The good news is that we were able to keep our skis on (no walking) for the 50 mile journey.....
This was the first week that actually felt like winter in the Yosemite high country this season. Cold temperatures and a little bit of snow made things look more wintry as well. The snowpack is still shallow at 8,600 feet (10-16 inches).
This week saw a welcome change from the dry weather that has dominated the winter so far. Although the Tuolumne Meadows area did not receive the soaking that much of the rest of California did, the 14 inches of snow that fell over the course of the week vastly improved moods and ski conditions. Snow coverage is now good above 8,500 feet on all but southerly aspects. The Tioga Road is 100% snow covered from Ellery Lake to Tuolumne Meadows.
The average high temperature for the month of December was 47°F, which is 7 degrees warmer than average for our weather plot here in Tuolumne Meadows. Total snowfall for the month was a paltry five inches with an even more meager water content of 0.17 inches. Thankfully, the wet storms that came through in November have left some snow.
December 28, 2017Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
It was a mostly dry week in the Tuolumne Meadows area, with above-average temperatures. The dusting of new snow that the area received on Christmas Eve improved ski conditions around the meadows. There is presently a supportable base layer with just enough soft snow on top to allow for fun grip and glide ski touring on the road, meadows, and drainages.
December 20, 2017Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The winter rangers are back for lucky season number seven! There is a mere six inches of snow on the ground here in Tuolumne Meadows. Presently, the Tioga Road east of the park is bare from Lee Vining gate to Ellery Lake. Beyond there one can either walk and/or ski along the edges of the road/meadows. From Tioga Pass to just east of Tenaya Lake the road is 95% snow covered.
It was another wet week in the central Sierra Nevada. The latest round of moisture was mostly rain here in Tuolumne Meadows, so although the new snow amounts were low, almost two inches of water was added to the already saturated and deep snowpack.
Winter returned to the Yosemite high county this week; we measured 26 inches of new snow and 2.68 inches of water equivalent during this storm. With over 100 inches of snow still on the ground here at 8,600 feet it is looking like it will be a short summer season here in Tuolumne Meadows this year.
We had a busy week of conducting the five area snow surveys. Travel conditions were mostly good and the surveys provided some interesting data. In spite of the dryer than average March, the surveys at Dana and Rafferty Meadows showed the most snow water equivalent (SWE) in the history of the April 1 surveys! These two courses date back as far as 1927 and 1948 respectively.
During the first few days of March the ski touring and turning were some of the best of the season. This however, was then punctuated by an intense 48 hour blizzard. And, just as quickly, the sun and calm winds have returned. For now, expect just about every ski condition possible and make sure you bring your scraper, and ski and skin wax.
This week was characterized by cold temperatures and mostly dry weather. The alpine terrain was hit hard by southwest winds following last week’s stormy weather. The disturbance that came through the central Sierra Nevada the past few days left some cold, dry powder, on the surface. The skiing is quite good presently but we are in for a bit of a warm up at the end of this week which will affect conditions yet again.
February 22, 2017Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
After the epic January here in the Sierra Nevada we thought perhaps the weather would become more “settled” in February. Au contraire, as of this writing we have measured 128 inches of snow and 13 inches of water equivalent at our weather plot here in Tuolumne Meadows so far this month. This week we took advantage of the four day window of dry window of dry weather we had and patrolled up to Tioga Pass and Mt. Dana...
February 15, 2017Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The weather this week gave us a taste of just about everything. First it rained 2.5 inches, and then it snowed 29 inches. Our settled snow stake hit 126 inches! Then, a mighty gale came up out of the northeast for two days and redistributed all of the snow. Presently, you would be hard pressed to find any snow out there that has not been wind affected one way or another. You don’t like these ski conditions? Stay tuned, conditions will surely change again soon.
February 08, 2017Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
We have measured 40 inches of new snow this past week and 3.57 inches of water so far, and there is more in the forecast. The present storm is a warm one and snow levels are high. The snow is of the “sierra cement” variety and the lighter snow that fell earlier in the week is now “inverted” beneath the heavy snow. This makes for difficult trail breaking and marginal ski conditions.
February 02, 2017Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
We just completed our first set of snow surveys for the month of January 2017 (aka the February 1 snow surveys) which yielded snow depths and water content within the top three to five ever recorded for the month. The warm temperatures this week caused the snow surface, on all aspects except north, below 9,500 feet, to go through a melt-freeze cycle. In the alpine zone, the snow is wind affected.
We live in a world of extremes up here in Tuolumne Meadows. We have seen record drought. Now we have seen record snowfall. Within a mere three weeks we have measured 207 inches of snow and 20.25 inches of water here in Tuolumne Meadows.
Our week in Tuolumne can be summed up in three words—the big dig! Following the copious snowfall of the previous week we have been busy digging out area facilities and assessing the results of such a deep blanket of white that fell in such a short time frame. And, we still recorded 25 inches of new snow this week!
Winter solitude in a world of one color, the sound of wind” - Basho. That sums up our week up here. If you are reading this post, it probably means the Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers have survived the atmospheric river events of January 4, 2017 to present —105 inches of new snow with 12.5 inches of water and counting!
The weather this week was dominated by sun and wind, and starting yesterday, snow. We had brilliant early winter sunshine and calm winds for the first half of the week, followed by high winds and unsettled weather during the second half. The ski conditions went through some changes because of this weather pattern.
December 21, 2016Posted by: Rob and Laura Pilewski
This is our first full update of the 2016-17 winter season. Snow coverage is excellent on all aspects above 8,500 feet presently. The snow is wind affected above 9000 feet, so ski conditions and snow depth vary by aspect. Ski conditions are currently very good along the Tioga Road. The above normal temperatures this week have settled the snowpack at the mid elevations and trail breaking has gotten easier over time.
This is the last post of the 2015-2016 winter season. It was a dry week, with cold and windy conditions initially, followed by warm temperatures and calm winds. The snowpack is set up nicely for ideal spring ski conditions.
This week was characterized by very warm daytime highs and below freezing overnight lows for the first half of the week. The second half of the week saw warm and humid days with light precipitation and above freezing overnight lows. This has resulted in marginal ski conditions along the Tioga Road and the middle elevations below 9,000 feet.
High temperatures were in the low 50s every day this week. Overnight lows were below freezing, but not much below and not for very long. This has resulted in significant snow melt in the Tuolumne area. South aspects below 9,500 feet are patchy or completely bare. Above 10,000 feet the snowpack remains deep with good coverage. Ski conditions are variable depending on aspect and elevation.
It was a good week for sliding on snow in the Tuolumne Meadows area. The snow from the prior week set up for good traveling and powder skiing and just when things started to get crusty it started to snow again. There were two storms this weekend which deposited a total of 21 inches of new snow here at 8,600 feet.
This week started with spring like weather and ski conditions and ended with a welcome return to winter. An impressive 35” of new snow fell in Tuolumne Meadows over a four day period. This was a much needed deposit in the California water bank!
March 01, 2016Posted by: Robert and Laura Pilewski
The ski conditions have become very spring like this week. The middle elevations, in particular, have set up for excellent touring and turning. These so-called “spring” conditions are certainly more common in April and May than late February!
February 22, 2016Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The storm that came through central California on February 17 and 18 brought a welcome return to winter, though briefly, to the Tuolumne Meadows area. We measured 14 inches of new snow, 1.11 inches of water, and very high winds during this event. The days following the storm revealed the best powder skiing of the season.
February 17, 2016Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
This was the first week since we arrived on December 11 that there was no measurable precipitation. The daytime highs were in the mid 50’s all week, and thankfully, the overnight lows still below freezing. Above 9,500 feet the snowpack still has a winter feel to it on all but south aspects. The forecast calls for a chance of snow the next few days so there may be changes in the ski conditions/snowpack coming up.
February 03, 2016Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The winter rangers finally saw their shadows this week when the sun came out! Not sure what that means for the rest of the winter. The temperatures were much warmer this week. Those calm, sunny days were then followed by a rather drenching snow storm. We observed rain up to 10,000’ near Tioga Pass. Once colder temperatures arrived, the snow started to fall and became progressively lighter and drier, making for ideal powder skiing conditions.
As is usually the case this time of year, sun exposed areas will be forming crusts with less desirable skiing. Northerly aspects continue to be excellent skiing except where wind effected up high. Coverage is good on all aspects and ski conditions continue to be ideal.
The weather was ideal for winter recreation this week. The Tuolumne Meadows area received 16 inches of low density snow followed by cold and calm days. Trail breaking was initially quite arduous, but has since set up nicely for good turning and touring.
Although there was not a lot of new snow this past week, ski conditions continue to be ideal. Cold temperatures, light winds, and a good settled snow depth have resulted in fine winter recreation opportunities. We did a patrol to Mono Pass this week and the ski touring was fabulous. Powder snow on top of a supportable crust, who could ask for anything more? As I write the flakes are falling again and the forecast is for a wet week ahead....
December 30, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Wow! Somebody must’ve been good this year. On Christmas Eve, Santa brought Tuolumne Meadows a foot of fresh snow! And, throughout the week, these beautiful stellar flakes kept falling from the heavens. The temperatures have remained cold, and although the winds ravaged the alpine zone, there are still plenty of areas of pleasant powder skiing.
December 23, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers
With 27 inches of new snow, we have been happily breaking trail and shoveling….a lot. Since we are in between forecasted storm cycles, ski conditions are pretty dynamic. At present, trail-breaking is deep and inverted. If you have plans of traveling anywhere in the backcountry, be flexible and prepared. Blizzard-like conditions and poor visibility can be expected. Navigational skills are a must in the winter.
December 15, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
This is our first post of the 2015-16 winter season! We arrived to the Yosemite high country on December 11th after skiing up Lee Vining Canyon from the locked gate at the bottom. The snow line stretched all the way to the gate at that time but will fluctuate with temperatures and snow conditions. Snow depth increases with altitude and above 9,000 feet there is 2-4 feet of snow on the ground and good coverage. The snow depth and ski conditions are greater now than they were at any time last winter.
This is our final post of the season. The snow from last week is mostly melted out around Tuolumne Meadows and there is essentially no skiing below 9500 feet. Above 9500 feet on north aspects, there are still skiing opportunities, but these are very limited. The best ski opportunities exist north of Tioga Pass around Bennettville and Saddlebag Lake, though travelers should anticipate having to carry skis for stretches in these places as well. The east side of Tioga Pass (Highway 120 from US 395 to Tioga Pass) is open. In Yosemite National Park, the Tioga Road is closed between Tioga Pass and Crane Flat.
Just when we were all getting excited about summer sports, Mother Nature throws us a curve ball and blankets the high mountains with some much-needed snow. It is a beautiful scene to behold. One we’ve been waiting for all season here in Tuolumne Meadows. Of course, most of this snow fell on bare ground, so our travel summary remains relatively the same: snowshoes are the equipment of choice to access the trails around Tuolumne Meadows. Ice axes and crampons are advised for high mountain travel. Especially with this new snow, trails are not obvious in places and navigational skills are a must. Come prepared for any type of weather.
Recreation conditions have not changed much since last week's post. There is still too much snow above 9,000 feet to simply hike. Snowshoes are the equipment of choice to access the trails around Tuolumne Meadows. Ice axes and crampons are advised for high mountain travel.
If you are willing to strap your skis on your back, you can find skiable snow above 9500 feet. But, it is by no means hiking season yet unless you want to post-hole in 1 ½ feet of snow on north-facing slopes above 9,000 feet. Snowshoes are still a necessity in most places above this elevation. Come prepared for any type of weather. We did get three inches of new snow this week. Every flake helps!
At 8,600 feet around Tuolumne Meadows, there is a patchwork of bare ground and snow patches of varying depths. Rivers are running and the meadows are starting to green up for spring. The continued drought (year four) and well-above-normal temperatures this winter is unprecedented since weather records have been kept here and elsewhere in California.
We spent the past week on patrol in the northern reaches of Yosemite for the Sierra Nevada red fox project. The snowpack is significantly deeper there, with an average of three feet of snow on the ground. Unfortunately, it is so dry below 8,600 feet that we had to carry our skis for ten miles before hitting “ski line.” Some would consider this excessive, but for us it was well worth the effort. The skiing and weather were perfect for spring skiing and camping.
Though not the big Sierra dump that is sorely needed, the 12 inches of snow that fell this past weekend was a sight for sore eyes! The ski conditions are vastly improved from last week. Visitors can expect the Tioga Road to be mostly snow covered from Ellery Lake to Tuolumne Meadows.
February 26, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
One can manage a few turns up high in between the rocks, and the road and meadows are still mostly snow covered, allowing for fast travel. Temperatures are forecast to be more “seasonal” this week (low 40s instead of this season’s norm of mid 50s), so not much should change in regards to the ski conditions.
February 12, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
We got the precipitation we had been waiting for this week; unfortunately it mostly fell as the liquid kind. The atmospheric river event was a warm one even for the high country. One has to go above 9,500 feet to get above the rain line. Above 9,500 feet, the new snow amounts are more like 16+ inches, and the settled snow depth is 41 inches, on average. Coverage improved dramatically with the wet snow that fell and with settlement will provide for fine cross-country skiing in the flats and gentler terrain.
February 05, 2015Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The weather this week was characterized by warm and dry conditions. January 2015 was the warmest and driest January on record for our weather station here in Tuolumne Meadows. One can easily deduce what the ski conditions are like in the area after such a weather synopsis. Remarkably, the skiing on the road and meadows is still good.
This week saw a significant warm spell, a wind event, and, finally, a dusting of new snow. Hence, the snow conditions are what we like to call “variable.” The best skiing is still on the road, in drainages, and meadows. There are not many turns to be had in the alpine zone, so touring is the best bet until (if) we get some more snow.
Despite the never-ending dry spell, visitors are taking advantage of winter in Tuolumne Meadows. People are snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking, biking (east of the park boundary) and even rock climbing! Ski conditions are ever changing. The road corridor is the most user friendly place for skiing.
The snow surface has gone through some melt - freeze cycles this week which has improved the ski conditions. The snow is still pretty shallow, with the deeper snow on the north aspects. The Tioga Road is mostly snow covered with one small patch of dry pavement from Tuolumne Meadows to Tioga Pass. This is an ideal winter for snow-shoeing especially along the trail corridors.
So.... the sun and now the winds have ravaged the mountain snow. BUT, the low angle winter lighting on the newly formed waves of sastrugi is great for photography. And the peace and quiet of the new year makes touring in wilderness as lovely as ever.
December 30, 2014Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The ski conditions and weather have held a bit of everything since our last post. It has snowed a little and the wind has blown a lot over the past ten days. It was unseasonably warm for a couple of days and now it is bitter cold. That being said, one can imagine the changes that have taken place with the ski conditions. Every turn is different and if you’re lucky you’ll hit a pocket of powder.
December 20, 2014Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
The winter rangers arrived to Tuolumne Meadows last week and this is our first conditions update of the season! We will be updating this report weekly this winter. We are happy to say that things are looking and feeling a lot more like winter around here than last season. The ski conditions and snow coverage are good making for ideal winter travel. Snow depths in the area range from 16 inches to 32 inches depending on aspect and elevation.
Different year, same dry Sierra’s. Calendar year 2013 was the driest year in the history of weather record keeping in Yosemite National Park. That being said, there is still enough snow in the greater Tuolumne area for skiing.
December 22, 2013Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
It has been a dry start to the 2013-2014 winter. Our weather data is incomplete due to our late arrival at Tuolumne Meadows. Currently the snow depth is 7 to 14 inches, depending on aspect and elevation. That being said, the ski conditions on the Tioga Road and in Tuolumne Meadows are pretty darn good. The Tioga Road is virtually 100% snow covered in Yosemite National Park. There is some bare pavement on the Lee Vining grade from Tioga Pass to the gate at the bottom of Lee Vining Canyon. If approaching from the east, a bicycle would be a good idea until there is more snow.
This is our last post of the winter of 2013. The snow stake here at Tuolumne Meadows reads 0 inches, so it must be time to head for our summer range down south at Sequoia National Park. There was a lot of melting this week as temperatures were in the upper 50s each day. There is patchy snow below 9,000 feet on all aspects except south, and the best coverage remains above 9,500 feet on north aspects.
This week provided some great corn skiing opportunities below tree line, but above there is still some challenging wind-affected snow. This should change for the better with the upcoming melt freeze cycle. There is more bare ground showing every day, and the best coverage remains on north facing slopes above 9,000 feet.
A little new snow followed by high winds hit the Tuolumne area this week. There was a brief period of good powder skiing before the north winds came along and redistributed the new snow and retextured the snow surface.
Seasonal temperatures and dry conditions prevailed in the Tuolumne Meadows area this week. The little bit of snow that we did get early in the week helped to smooth the snow surface and give some grip to the waxless skis. Now is the time for ski touring as conditions are set up for covering the miles and expedient travel.
Above-normal temperatures and dry conditions prevailed in the Tuolumne Meadows area this week. It is presently snowing, however, and though not forecast to be a significant precipitation event, any additional water added to the snowpack will be welcome.
February 27, 2013Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Whether you asked for it or not, spring is in the air. Warm temperatures and cool nights are forecast for the week. If we are lucky, this will provide for an early harvest of corn snow, although we prefer a diet of powder this time of year.
February 07, 2013Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
It was a dry week with calm winds and seasonal temperatures in the Tuolumne Meadows area. The base snow depth remains unchanged in spite of the persistent dry weather, however, and coverage is still excellent for ski touring.
February 05, 2013Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
December came in with a bang and January is going out with a whimper. Only 14 inches of snow fell this month, but thanks to the short days of winter, the base depth remains solid. What snow did fall, has been thrown back, forth and beyond with some fierce winds. One would think with the week of warm temperatures there would be no loose snow to transport and to send flags of snow towering above the peaks, but that is not the case!
The cold snap that covered the Western US this week also visited Tuolumne Meadows and its icy grip could be felt for most of the week. There were 3 consecutive days where the low temperature was -17, -22, and -21 respectively.
Ski conditions this week were shaped by windy and warm weather conditions. The thermometer hit 55°F and we had several days of high North East winds. Wind effected snow is now prevalent on most aspects above tree line. There is still soft snow below tree line, though the warm temperatures have confined the good skiing to the North aspects.
The winter rangers got what they wished for this Christmas in abundance. Presents were under (and on top of) every tree! Now, however, the snow has been blown off most of the branches after a pretty significant northeast wind event. Above treeline, sastrugi and wind crusts of varying densities are lurking. In some places, where the snow has been deposited or where it has been protected, it remains soft. Below treeline, the trail breaking has become much easier.
December 27, 2012Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Wow. After last winter we were wondering if we had made a wise choice moving to the Sierras from the snowiest place in Colorado. This week was certainly testimony that this can also be a “snowy range.” There were essentially two storms that hit the Tuolumne area this week and accounted for a whopping 56” of new snow.
December 18, 2012Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
It was a snowy week in the Tuolumne area. We had measurable snowfall 5 out of 7 days. Though it was not the big Sierra dump, the snowfall this week contributed to the settled base depth, which in turn contributed to more favorable ski conditions.
It has been great spring skiing in the Tuolumne Meadows vicinity. The weather this week was dominated by warm, sunny days and clear, cold nights. This is the ideal formula for setting up the snowpack for Sierra corn skiing. Most aspects were skiing well between the hours of 10:00AM and 2:00PM.