Yosemite Snow Levels, February 12, 2006

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Update April 11, 2006: It's still snowing with snow levels today at about 6,000 feet, which means that driving is pretty good most places (though chains are currently required on Highway 41 and Highway 120) except the Badger Pass Road, which is pretty slippery. There are no significant accumulations below 6000 feet, but there's still a lot of snow and it looks like there will be plenty of snow to ski on... until 2007 at this rate.

I've been skiing a ton lately: many days of teaching at Badger Pass, but I've also managed a bit of skate skiing on Glacier Point Road, some classic striding skiing on the groomed trails and also an overnight trip to Ostrander. My wife also took a CBS camera crew out to Dewey Point. So basically here's how things look after a month with almost no snowfall. Naturally, there's hardly any powder anywhere. We found a tiny pockets of it on shaded north slopes out by Ostrander, but mostly even out there it's firm, crusty, transformed snow. That said, the snow level is holding and there weren't any bare spots on the Ostrander or Dewey Point trails. The groomed trails, both alpine and cross-country, are in excellent conditions assuming you like firm, fast snow. One thing to take note with regard to alpine skiing, the landings off the jumps at Badger are firm and a guy broke his femur there a week ago (they shut down all the chairlifts and landed a medivac helicopter and flew him out).

The skate skiing on Glacier Point Road can be just fantastic if you hit it right - not too early if it froze the previous night, but not so late that it's all slushy. Very fast unless you go between about 1:00 and 3:30. In the mornings, though, it can be a little hard to set an edge skate skiing, so the morning after a cold night it's best to sleep in a bit.

The low altitude skiing, like Phantom Gully and Le Conte Gully are definitely not in condition. Some stream crossings can be challenging as fewer and fewer viable snow bridges exist. We didn't have any trouble any of the places we went, but we heard that the Ghost Forest Loop route into Ostrander, for example, is impassable right now.

I regret that I haven't had time to complete this report by taking a trip through Tuolumne, but I gotta pay the bills too.

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