2012-05-03 / Front Page

Tioga Road opens gates to skiers and sightseers

Tioga Road opened to through traffic on Monday—the road’s earliest opening in at least 25 years.

The road opens when Yosemite National Park crews can safely remove accumulated snow. That date varies widely depending on the year’s snowfall. According to Yosemite’s most recent snow survey, Tuolumne snowpack added up to just 26 percent of average this May 1.

Despite limited snow, a worker at Tioga Gas Mart in Lee Vining said backcountry skiers are heading up to the pass this week to take advantage of good spring “corn” snow.

“Once you get up high, there’s snow,” store worker Valerie Rasmussen said on Tuesday. “I talked to skiers who skinned up on the opposite side of Ellery Lake. It looked pretty reasonable to me.”

Rasmussen drove to a point near Tioga Pass on Monday. There’s less than normal for this time of year—but there’s still snow in the high country, she said.

“My guess is it’s going to be a month or so before the flowers start popping up (at higher elevations),” she said.

According to Park records, this year’s May 7 opening is the earliest since 1987—when Tioga Road opened on May 2. The drought years of 1976 and 1977 saw record opening dates of April 10 and 8, respectively, according to data on the monobasinresearch.org Web site.

The site reports a slightly different opening date than the Park’s for 1987—May 8.

The photo of Tioga Pass Entrance Station was submitted by Beth Pratt.

Closure periods for Tioga Road vary greatly depending on snowfall and weather. The road’s latest opening ever occurred on July 8, 1933.

Salt Lake City resident Andrea Lee North drops into Ellery Bowl near Tioga Pass on June 30, 2011. "This (photo) doesn't even do justice to the steepness," North wrote on her blog.

Photo: Andrea Lee North/Wasatchandbeyond.blogspot.com
Salt Lake City resident Andrea Lee North drops into Ellery Bowl near Tioga Pass on June 30, 2011. "This (photo) doesn't even do justice to the steepness," North wrote on her blog. Photo: Andrea Lee North/Wasatchandbeyond.blogspot.com --Erik Skindrud/GAZETTE REPORTER

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