Written by Laura and Rob Pilewski on The Sierra Sun Times, March 19, 2020
New snow: 19 inches
Total settled snow depth: 30 inches (at 8,600 feet)
High temperature: 47°F (March 12)
Low temperature: -6°F (March 18)
Ski Conditions and Weather
Winter returned to the Sierra Nevada this week. Cold temperatures and much-needed precipitation fell over the past five days and unsettled weather is forecast to continue through the last days of March.
Ski conditions and snow coverage are now much improved. Where the new snow fell on bare ground, however, there are still many obstacles lurking just below the snow surface. The deepest snowpack and best skiing exist on north aspects. Touring on flatter terrain is also quite good. The weather and conditions this time of year are very dynamic so visitors should be self-reliant and prepared.
As of this writing, snowline stretches to the closed gate at the bottom of Lee Vining Canyon, though the snow is very shallow below Warren Fork.
Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions
Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) for the avalanche advisory for this part of the Sierra Nevada.
There are several weak layers that have persisted in the old snowpack from the first (and really only) storm of the winter that fell back in late November and early December. Faceted snow and crust layers are now buried beneath the new snow. We have not observed avalanche activity in the Tuolumne Meadows area or any significant reactivity on these layers yet. Visitors should be diligent in making real-time assessments of the avalanche hazard. Presently, these hazards exist primarily on north through east aspects.
Most of the winter resident bird species were heard singing their mating songs prior to the plunge in temperatures and wintry weather. Red crossbills, mountain chickadees, brown creepers, Clark’s nutcrackers, and even a northern flicker were out and about. One evening we also heard the lonely, unanswered hoots of a northern saw-whet owl.
For those visiting the Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut from the east (only) permits are self-issued at the Ski Hut. For those entering from other areas, please see Yosemite’s website: https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/wildpermits.htm (#3: Do I need a wilderness permit during winter?) or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740.
Come prepared, and please make good decisions while traveling in the wilderness!
Stay healthy and take care of one another,
Rob and Laura Pilewski – Tuolumne Meadows Winter Rangers