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CDOT may try automated avalanche system to control slides
Colorado transportation officials want to experiment with an automated system to trigger and control avalanches in the state's high country.
The so-called "avalanche control system" consists of using devices installed along known avalanche paths to set off a massive snow slide.
(OutThereColorado.com shared a report about the Gazex avalanche control system in February.)
Planners say the automated system is safer and more reliable than the current method of firing off explosives from the ground or dropping them from the sky in hopes of starting an avalanche.
"You can't fully control weapons fired off from the snow or from a helicopter," said Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman Ashley Mohr. "It's much easier for us to push a button to trigger them."
On average, avalanches kill six people a year in Colorado. Avalanche deaths have steadily declined over the past decade, despite the growth in the state's population, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.
About 2,300 avalanches a year are reported to the center but officials there say the actual number of avalanches that occur in Colorado is probably 10 times that much.
CDOT wants to conduct a pilot project of the automated system on U.S. 40 over Berthoud Pass, which is a hot spot of avalanche activity, Mohr said.
The agency is inviting the public to an information meeting of the proposed project on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Winter Park Town Hall at 50 Vasquez Road.
CDOT will also need clearance from the U.S. Forest Service to conduct the pilot, Mohr said