OUTDOORS + RECREATION

UDOT installing remote-controlled avalanche system, may cause travel delays

Jul 1, 2024, 3:00 PM

Alta and the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon are pictured on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021....

Alta and the top of Little Cottonwood Canyon are pictured on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. (Kristin Murphy)

(Kristin Murphy)

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Transportation announced a move to remote-controlled avalanche mitigation starting this next ski season.

Drivers may experience some inconvenience this summer when traveling through Little Cottonwood Canyon. However, UDOT said the high-tech system will make controlled avalanches more efficient.

Starting this week, there will be occasional closures in both directions of SR-210 through October as they install 16 towers to house the remote control systems, UDOT said in a press release.

Officials said the bypass road will stay open as an alternative route near Alta.

According to UDOT, crews previously used howitzers to trigger approximately 330 controlled avalanches each season. The new Wyssen Avalanche Towers will allow crews to trigger avalanches from a safe location. 

“This project is part of UDOT’s long-term plan to reduce the amount of military artillery fired in the canyon,” UDOT Avalanche Safety Program Manager Steven Clark said in the release. “By using this technology, we will enhance safety and become even more effective at preventing avalanches from reaching our roads.”

UDOT said crews may work seven days a week removing loose rock and unstable soil before the installation begins.

The installation will include special helicopters to lift and place the heavy pieces of equipment the statement read.  

Location of remote-controlled avalanche towers 

According to the release, towers will be placed in Little Cottonwood Canyon on the Mount Superior ridgeline above the road. 

“We encourage everyone who recreates in the upper canyon to plan ahead, visit the project website and look at the map of the closure area where the Wyssen Avalanche Towers will be installed,” UDOT Region Two Project Manager Becky Stromness said in a statement.

“Respecting the construction area closure will help us get the new towers installed as safely and quickly as possible so we can begin using them this winter.” 

UDOT will post updates on the project on their website.

Related reading: Little Cottonwood Canyon is one of the most avalanche-prone canyons in the world, U of U professor says

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UDOT installing remote-controlled avalanche system, may cause travel delays