New snow: 14 inches
Total settled snow depth: 52 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 58 degrees F (February 16)
Low temperature: 5 degrees F (February 19)
Ski Conditions and Weather
The storm that came through central California on February 17 and 18 brought a welcome return to winter, though briefly, to the Tuolumne Meadows area. We measured 14 inches of new snow, 1.11 inches of water, and very high winds during this event. The days following the storm revealed the best powder skiing of the season. The winds abated, and the last 6 inches of snow that fell at the end of the storm was low density making for fantastic ski conditions. That was then; this is now. The above average temperatures for February have since returned and began to set up the snowpack for more spring like conditions. The ski touring will be excellent after a few more days of the snow surface going through the melt freeze cycle. Above 10,000 feet the snow is wind affected and still wintry. Coverage is still pretty good on all aspects, though the south facing slopes are starting to burn off with the warm and sunny days.
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.
We observed several small pockets of wind slab avalanches following this week’s storm. These were primarily on N-NE aspects and below terrain features on the lee side of ridges and rock bands. Avalanche conditions will quickly stabilize with the warm weather forecast for the week ahead. However, with these warmer temperatures, be aware of wet slide activity especially on granite slab formations.
The Northern Pygmy-Owl was heard on numerous occasions this week. In fact, it was even seen by us for the first time when it started calling well before dusk. A lot of other critters have become more active with the longer days and warmer weather. Coyote tracks which were absent most of the winter now are seen wandering far and wide.
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 electricity or phone service at the ski hut.
Laura and Rob Pilewski – Tuolumne Winter Rangers