New Snow: 3 inches
Settled Snow Depth: 30 inches
High temperature: 52 °F (March 21)
Low temperature: 12 °F (March 20)
Ski Conditions and Weather
Spring has sprung here in Tuolumne Meadows. The mating calls of birds and sound of rushing water now compete with the sound of the wind in the trees. Another quick hitter of an inside slider moved through the area this week leaving a dusting of new snow. The forecast is calling for near record high temperatures this week which will sadly accelerate the snow melt. Our snow stake has been holding steady above 30 inches since the snows of December blanketed the Sierra seemingly forever ago.
The ski conditions are also very spring-like. Corn snow can now be found on all aspects below 10,000 feet. Up high things are still setting up. The snow on south facing slopes at all elevations is becoming a patchwork of bare ground and snow. Creative route finding is necessary in the alpine zone as due south aspects along with many southwest aspects are devoid of snow. Leeward, low angle slopes and drainages hold the most. You won’t find much snow below 7,000 feet.
Skis or snowshoes are still strongly recommended for visiting the Yosemite High Country. Traction devices are useful at shaded mid elevations. Snowline to the east is dynamic with snow removal and weather. Expect dry pavement to Saddlebag Lake Road. Snow coverage on the road is still 100% from Tioga Pass to well beyond Olmsted Point.
Skate ski conditions along the Tioga Road and in Tuolumne meadows are some of the best we’ve seen in a decade despite the drought.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions
Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.
The light freeze last night, and the forecasted warm spell will increase the avalanche hazard and danger from rockfall on solar aspects.
Snow Travel Tip
As the days are getting longer and the snow more spring-like, it is easier to cover the miles. But what happens if your binding breaks way out in the boonies? Did you bring your posi-drive and/or multi-tool? Extra binding screws? Bailing wire? Hopefully at a minimum duct tape?! Could you fashion a pair of snowshoes out of dead and downed willows or pine boughs as a last resort if you’re unable to ski out? Well, due to various circumstances, we’ve seen scenarios like this just about every season up here. So, just in case a friendly ranger isn’t around to lend a hand, don’t forget to bring the repair kit and be self-reliant.
We saw our first pair of porcupine tracks of the season near Rafferty Creek. With both their and our seemingly random patrols, it’s hard to say if they are uncommon and/or if we just miss seeing their tracks.
In addition to the many woodpeckers noted last week, we saw and heard a less common species at west Tenaya Lake: the black-backed woodpecker. Its call is a bit like a Belding’s ground squirrel (sometimes called a picket-pin). Like the pine grosbeak and great gray owl, the black-backed woodpecker is more typical of the “cold-climate coniferous forests of Canada and Alaska” but their range extends south to the northern Rockies and Sierra (Beedy & Pandolfino, Birds of the Sierra Nevada, Univ. of CA Press, 2013).
We can also add Cassin’s finch, red-breasted nuthatch and killdeer to the list this week. Although we looked for them a few days prior, we didn’t notice the killdeer until we heard their plaintive cries under the light of the full moon. That along with the sounds of the rippling river nearby told us that spring has indeed arrived in Tuolumne Meadows; always bittersweet.
The wilderness is open! Please #RecreateResponsibly by planning and preparing thoroughly for your outdoor activities in the park.
Read through the following two pages before embarking on any day or overnight snow travel within this park:
You may contact us with any additional winter Tuolumne Meadows related questions.
Though it has been two years since we lost our dear friend and colleague Annie Esperanza, we celebrate her life each day that we are out patrolling and will be thinking of her friends and family this week as we embark on our snow surveys. Annie too, loved to ski. As a scientist working in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks for over 40 years, she dedicated her career to protecting the water we drink and the air we breathe. Her legacy lives on in all who knew her and in the mission of the NPS. We miss you Annie.
Laura and Rob Pilewski - Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers