Update for March 15, 2016

March 16, 2016 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski

New snow: 21 inches
Total settled snow depth: 57 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 48 degrees F (March 10)
Low temperature: 8 degrees F (March 15)

Ski Conditions and Weather

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.  High winds from the southwest accompanied the storms and above treeline the snow is very wind affected. There are some impressive snowdrifts exceeding twenty feet in depth along the Tioga Road in Lee Vining Canyon. The snowline is approximately 9,000 feet on the east side of  Tioga Pass so visitors should anticipate walking from the gate for approximately three miles before being able to put the skis on. It looks like the weather will be warm and dry this week which should set up a good melt freeze cycle making for good spring ski conditions.

Skiers descending into Upper Budd Creek in the late afternoon light.

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions

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

As mentioned, the high winds that accompanied the wet weather this weekend transported a lot of snow. The winds continued to blow strong from the southwest on Monday prior to abating.  Newly formed wind slabs should be anticipated on all steep terrain above treeline with aspects of N-NE-E-SE.  As the temperatures warm this week there should be some bonding between the wind slabs and the underlying snow but the timing can be very hard to predict. In many places the wind slabs are overlying the low density snow that fell during the first storm making for a fragile upper snowpack. The other concern this week will be the warming temperatures heating up the new snow and creating the potential for wet slides. Wilderness travelers should be attentive when traveling during the heat of the day as the bond between the new snow and the old snow surface may become weaker.

Pine marten peeking his head out at the ski hut


This morning a cute little pine marten stopped by our residence during its morning rodent patrol. Northern flickers have been spotted with more frequency lately. It feels like any day now we’ll start hearing their loud vocalizations and drumming on trees.


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 public 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; don't count on phone service at the ski hut.

Happy Skiing!
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Winter Rangers

Last updated: March 16, 2016

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