Tuolumne Meadows Winter Update for January 24, 2024

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Tuolumne Meadows Winter Update for January 24, 2024
January 25, 2024 Posted by: Laura and Rob Pilewski
New Snow: 18 inches
Settled Snow Depth: 30 inches
High Temperature: 45°F (January 19)
Low Temperature: 11°F (January 18)   

Ski Conditions and Weather
The weather was characterized by warmer temperatures and some new snow this week. Although coverage is good, we would still consider it to be “early season conditions” so visitors should continue to use caution and be wary of obstacles just beneath the snow surface. Make sure to bring the scraper and ski wax to ward off the sticky snow. Things are certainly looking up with even this “little bit” of new snow.

Avalanche and Snowpack Conditions
Please refer to the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center (ESAC) and the Bridgeport Avalanche Center for the avalanche advisories for this part of the Sierra Nevada.

Immediately following this inclement weather, certainly tread lightly and carefully given the complex snowpack. Be especially cognizant of warming temperatures especially on solar aspects and on granite slabs areas this week.

History of Snow Surveys
Left image: Mt. Rose snow sampler in action.; Right image: Snow sampler with snow core being weighed.
Left image: Mt. Rose snow sampler in action.; Right image: Snow sampler with snow core being weighed.
Some of the earliest snow surveyors worked for the [hydro]electric companies or ranching and farming industry as “stream gaugers” during the offseason. Orland Bartholomew is, perhaps, the most famous hydrographer among them thanks to his incredible 1928-1929 feat of skiing solo from Horseshoe Meadow to Yosemite Valley.

In 1929, the state “…legislature, after consultation with major water interests, determined that the Division of Water Resources (now the Department of Water Resources) would be the coordinator of the ‘California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program’ and so directed in Section 228 of the Water Code” (California Data Exchange Center). DWR was given the “…mission to establish a relationship between snowfall and snowmelt for the entire state. Under the finalized legislation, four annual surveys were proposed, culminating with an April 1 survey, when the snowpack was at its peak…Snow courses would be marked and mapped. The state would fund and provide the basic equipment and supervision; it also constructed the use of shelters, which they stocked with food and emergency supplies” (Rose 63). This week Yosemite National Park employees will be embarking on the February 1 snow surveys. Although we don’t have nearly as much snow this winter, snowflakes are piling up outside and we remain optimistic.

Tuolumne River at Glen Aulin on January 19, 2024.
Tuolumne River at Glen Aulin on January 19, 2024.
Both the wildlife and the skiers flocked to the outdoors this week. The pine martens were leaping out of trees as we skied by (okay just one did, but we did see a second and lots of tracks). A bald eagle soared over “Telemark Dome” along the Tuolumne River with the majestic Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne as a backdrop. No doubt it is still taking advantage of the partially open waters. And the northern saw-whet owl has been vocal lately bidding us adieu as we depart on our upcoming snow surveys.

The Tuolumne Meadows Ski Hut is open. This primitive cabin is the campground reservation office in the summer and is located along the Tioga Road at the entrance to the campground. It is marked with a sign. There is firewood and 8 bunks that are available on a first-come, first-served basis. 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/wildfaq.htm#winter or you may contact the wilderness office at 209/372-0740. As of this writing, there is electricity and limited phone service in Tuolumne Meadows.

Come prepared, and please make good decisions while traveling in the wilderness!

Read through the following three pages before embarking on any day or overnight snow travel within this park:

Wilderness in Winter

Winter Safety

Snow Travel Tips: Weekly posts from January through April 2022

You may contact us with any additional winter Tuolumne Meadows related questions but response times may vary if we are away on patrol.

Rose, Gene. Snow Warriors: The Heroic Trail of the Early Snow Surveyors. Gene Rose, 2022.

Yay snow! (In loving memory of Dr Bob. Gone from the earth but never forgotten)
Laura and Rob Pilewski – Tuolumne Meadows winter rangers

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