Update for January 4, 2017

January 04, 2017 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
New snow: 21 inches
Total settled snow depth: 50 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature:  51°F (December 29)
Low temperature:  -1°F (January 2)

Tuolumne Meadows area on December 31, 2016 with lodgpole pine in foreground
Ski Conditions and Weather

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. Sun and wind crusts were formed, but powder remained on sheltered north aspects. Above tree-line the snow surface became wind affected on all aspects and ski conditions became pretty marginal. Coverage is good everywhere except wind scoured slopes in the alpine. 
Lots of new snow is in the forecast this week so conditions will be changing. Visitors should expect blizzard-like conditions given the forecast and be fully self-reliant in this wilderness setting. We are in the midst of an “atmospheric river” weather event, and the forecast calls for the potential for another event this weekend. These events are not to be taken lightly.

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions

Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.
Given the amount of snow that is falling as we type this post, the avalanche hazard is increasing significantly. High winds are moving lots of snow and loading lee sides of ridges.  Just because Tioga Road is a road, one must pass under numerous slide paths both to the east and west of Tuolumne Meadows to get here. We recommend postponing any wilderness travel plans until the weather and conditions stabilize.

WildlifePorcupine in lodgpole pine

Both the birds and the coyotes have been feasting on the abundance of juniper berries this winter as evidenced by their droppings and scat. And, for the second season in a row, we have come across a porcupine during our travels. This time, we followed its tracks for only a couple of yards to the base of a lodgepole pine. There we were stunned to see it huddled among the branches only a few feet above the snow. We immediately left it alone as all animals need to conserve their energy in such a winter environment.


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 phone service in Tuolumne Meadows this winter. We can be contacted via email, 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, and please make good decisions while travelling in the wilderness this winter.

Be safe!
Laura and Rob Pilewski — Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers

Last updated: January 4, 2017

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