Avalanche Hazard Reduction Using the Doppelmayr Avalanche Guard Cache and Mortar Technology: FHWA-WY-05/02F
Increased travel demand on the winter/alpine roads of the Western USA has resulted in a dramatic increase in the hazard from snow avalanches to motorists and maintenance personnel. These encounters are often disastrous.
Presently, the state of practice for managing avalanche hazards on the winter and alpine roads of the western United States is avalanche hazard forecasting, coupled with active control measures (explosive initiation of the avalanches) while the road is temporarily closed. Operations of this style are carried out on roadways in Alaska, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, as well as in Canada and Europe. However, growth in overall risk to motorists and maintenance section personnel is out-pacing our ability to adapt this present method of operation to meet safety objectives.
Typically, the scale of the problem is largest in heavily populated mountainous states, such as California and Washington. By virtue of pure spatial scale alone, Alaska also has a significant and expensive avalanche problem on roadways. Colorado and Utah’s problems are similar in scale to Alaska’s. Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming each maintain modest state programs in avalanche hazard management.
The objective of this investigation was to demonstrate, evaluate, and operationally integrate an avalanche control delivery system that can improve all-weather explosive delivery, efficiency, and cost effectiveness for the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) avalanche control program on Teton Pass in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
To meet these objectives, an emerging European technology in automated operable cache storage and mortar delivery system, specifically, the Doppelmayr Avalanche Blaster was deployed on Teton Pass. Since the project was funded in July 2002, the technology was sold to Outdoor Engineers Inc. and renamed, Avalanche Guard. In addition, the objective was to investigate if the Avalanche Guard was a reliable, robust, and operational viable alternative (or additional) method for delivering avalanche control explosives to avalanche starting zones in all-weather conditions for StateDOT avalanche control programs on the winter alpine roads of the western U.S.
The specific tasks associated with this investigation included: i) site planning for both Teton Pass and Hoback Canyon, ii) Avalanche Guard installation, training test firing, and operational loading, and integration, and iii) evaluation of system performance and operational integration, as well as lessons learned.
During the 2003-2004 winter season, the Avalanche Guard was deployed operationally and evaluated in WYDOT District 3 on Teton Pass. The Avalanche Guard was successfully integrated into the WYDOT avalanche control program. In addition, the Avalanche Guard provided an effective allweather explosive delivery, efficiency, and cost effective system for the WYDOT avalanche control program on Teton Pass in Jackson Hole, Wyo.