Tuolumne Winter Conditions Update for March 21, 2018

March 21, 2018 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski

View of snowy mountain peaks in the foreground and in the distance
New snow:  33 inches
Total settled snow depth: 38 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 37°F (March 19)
Low temperature:  -9°F (March 18)

Ski Conditions and Weather:  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.

As a consequence, this week held some of the best powder skiing of the season. With the higher density snow falling first, even the trail breaking wasn’t difficult. But, it’s hard to say what the atmospheric river will bring this late in the season. Last night there was some rain up to at least 8,600 feet.  Presently, it’s a bit of a wintry mix here at the mid elevations.  The forecast calls for unsettled weather to continue through the weekend with significant precipitation over the next couple of days.     

View toward distant snowy peaks as seen from a snowy ridge

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

Immediately after this week’s storm, we did observe some instability on steep, north-facing treed slopes between 8,600 feet and 10,000 feet. One rather large 38-degree slope in particular collapsed and propagated but did not slide.  Several other large wind-slab avalanches were observed on Parsons and Unicorn Peak.  The break between storms saw more stable conditions, but heavy precipitation falling over the next several days will really test the stability of all snow covered slopes at all elevations and aspects.  This is a warm storm with high snow lines so our attention now turns to the likelihood of wet avalanches.  Be careful out there folks!

Stay tuned to ESAC for the most current avalanche hazard ratings and observations throughout the eastern/central Sierra.

Wildlife: Another raptor, the osprey, was observed flying westward over Tuolumne Meadows this week. Otherwise, perhaps due to a wet winter last year, rodent tracks seem more abundant than usual.

General Info: The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is firewood and 8 bunks that are available on a first come, first served basis. There is no phone service in Tuolumne Meadows at this time. 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 permit information, visit https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740. Come prepared, and please make good decisions while travelling in the wilderness this winter! Follow our blog: https://www.nps.gov/yose/blogs/tmconditions.htm.

The March miracle continues!
Laura and Rob Pilewski
Tuolumne Winter Rangers


Last updated: March 21, 2018

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