Update for February 26, 2020

February 26, 2020 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
Skier ascending mountain under cloudy skies
Skier and storm clouds over Tuolumne Meadows, February, 20, 2020
New snow: trace
Total settled snow depth: 25 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 50°F (February 25)
Low temperature: 8°F (February 20)


Ski Conditions and Weather

After last year’s epic winter, it is easy to be down in the dumps given the lack of snow this season. But, don’t despair yet. 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.

The weather this week has resulted in a good window of spring ski touring conditions. Though shallow, snow coverage is still descent on the majority of aspects between 8,000 feet and 10,000 ft. The road corridor, the meadows, and drainages all have mostly supportable corn-like snow making for fast and fun travel. The alpine terrain, on the other hand, is an unfortunate mixed bag of bare ground, wind textured hard snow, and icy smooth (often breakable) melt-freeze crusts. There may be a few corn turns out there on true south aspects, but for now it’s probably best to stick to ski touring.

If approaching Tuolumne Meadows from Lee Vining Canyon, one might want to consider a bicycle to get to the snowline. Visitors have reported mostly bare pavement between the gate and Tioga Lake. Although bicycles are allowed on the east side of Tioga Pass, they are not allowed in the national park wilderness during winter (including the Tioga Road).

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions

For the avalanche advisory for this area of the Sierra Nevada go to https://www.esavalanche.org/ for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center.

Presently the avalanche hazard in the Tuolumne Meadows area is low. Hard and potentially hazardous (i.e., slide-for-life) snow surfaces exist at the higher elevations. Ice-axe and crampons are recommended.


This week while skinning up the narrow strip of snow that remains on the Lembert Dome trail, a northern goshawk flew stealthily through the dense forest and landed on a nearby snag. The largest of North American accipters, its silhouette and white supercilium (stripe above the eye) stood out even without binoculars. With all of the Douglas squirrels we’ve seen this season, perhaps she will be looking to nest in the area. The mating song of the mountain chickadee and brown creeper can already be heard.

General Info

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/wildpermits.htm (#3: Do I need a wilderness permit during winter?) or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740. 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.

Snowy frozen Tenaya Lake
Tenaya Lake, February, 24, 2020

Last updated: February 26, 2020

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