Total settled snow depth: 5” as of January 5, 2014
Skiing Conditions and Weather: Different year, same dry Sierra. 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. What we lack in snow depth is more than made up for by the wilderness experience that one can have by visiting this part of Yosemite in winter time. The unique opportunity of experiencing an automobile free tuolumne meadows in winter is not to be underestimated. The solitude and freedom that one feels here in the winter without cars is exceptional. Many park visitors took advantage of the ski conditions to experience this wild tuolumne over the holidays. A bicycle is still a good idea if approaching from the east as the road in Lee Vining Canyon is mostly dry. Once you hit the park boundary at Tioga Pass the road is 99% snow covered to tuolumne meadows and beyond. The cross country ski conditions are good, though there have been enough melt freeze cycles now to produce icy conditions in the early and later parts of the day. North facing slopes still have over a foot of snow coverage, while the south facing slopes are bare.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions: For the latest avalanche advisory for this area go to www.esavalanche.org for the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center and click on advisory. The ESAC site is updated several times a week and more often during weather events. The avalanche hazard in the tuolumne area is low.
Wildlife: We came upon an interesting scene near Dog Lake last week. First we observed mountain lion tracks, unmistakable in the snow. The tracks led to a porcupine carcass. All that was left were quills and hide, and a few organs that the feline apparently buried beneath the snow for later. Pretty cool stuff. We also observed a bald eagle over the Lyell Fork, and a pine marten cruising the housing area. Pine siskins, and red crossbills have been enjoying the morning warmth on the south slopes of Lembert Dome, and a northern pygmy owl has been heard on many nights from our residence.
Questions: The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. There is an ample supply of firewood and 10 bunks that are available on a first come, first served basis. You can call the Tuolumne Meadows Ranger Station at 209/372-8734. If you leave a message we will get back to you the first chance we get. Power and phones are frequently out of service. Contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740 with any questions or concerns if you are unable to reach the ranger station. Come prepared; don't count on electricity or phone service at the ski hut.
Tuolumne Meadows from Lembert Dome on January 4, 2014
Happy Trails! Laura and Rob Pilewski Tuolumne Meadows Winter Volunteers