On many winter days explosions can be heard echoing across many ski areas. These are the sounds of avalanche mitigation.
There are a few ways the ski patrol can mitigate avalanche risks. While the explosive business is the most dramatic two other methods are used as well. Ski cutting and compaction.
“We don't do any mitigation outside of the resort and so it's 100% on the on the user, on themselves; we do worry about it from a rescue perspective but we do not do anything to mitigate that hazard," Andy Van Houten, snow safety director of Park City Mountain, said.
Last week an avalanche was reported in the Dutch Draw area of Park City, Utah between the lifts Peak Five and Ninety-Nine 90. According to Van Houten the avalanche occurred in the back country. "We worked with the Department of Public Safety helicopter," he said. "We're able to establish that nobody was involved. We had all of our witnesses accounted for, all is good.”
Georgia Tech engineering student Mirza Samnani volunteered over 1,000 hours to develop early warning systems for avalanches in Tajikistan.
Samnani hiked over 9,200 feet — three times — to install two weather stations in the village of Manem in Tajikistan. This project has the potential to affect more than 1 million people in hundreds of villages in the high mountainous regions of Central and South Asia including Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan that are prone to avalanches every winter. It can also be scaled to other parts of the world where avalanches pose a high risk.
An expert committee was formed by the Uttarakhand government to probe a series of Kedarnath avalanches in the past two months. They advised a complete ban on construction of buildings and temporary shelters on the “highly unstable and active debris slope above (the) Kedarnath temple”.
The panel recommended a “complete ban” on construction of any form on the highly unstable and active debris slope. Including scree fans (fan-shaped rock fragments). Construction activities at such heights may “lead to changes in direction and slopes of the unconsolidated materials” between the avalanche sites and the shrine.
The report also recommended slope modification and structural changes on the slopes.
“Benching of the slope at different elevations along the steep gradients of snow drift or channels to the north of Kedarnath temple would reduce overall slope angle and retard the velocity of downward movement of snow and debris mass” added the report.
It was also suggested that concrete wedges be constructed along the mid-slope of avalanche chutes to prevent and divert the forces, for “total protection from avalanche hazard”. The design, size and number of these structures would be decided after detailed field studies.
A Seward Highway avalanche closed the road for much of the day Friday. It was between Bird Creek and the Portage turnoff. The avalanche severed the only road access between Anchorage and the Kenai Peninsula for more than eight hours.
British Columbia is rolling out the artillery and bombs for avalanche bombing. There have been closures on some major roads for the first time in decades as the province grapples with record snowfall and rain.
The province uses helicopter avalanche bombing, remote-triggered explosives, and howitzers to keep roads open. But nonetheless critical routes to Vancouver are being disrupted by avalanche control.
Avalanche fences are being installed in Park City, Utah despite a petition to halt the construction. However, the petition appears to be to irrelevant now, since the construction of the avalanche barriers are underway.
Iron Mountain Associates plans to install 214 avalanche fences. The avalanche fences are three to four meters tall and under construction in The Colony neighborhood. The avalanche barriers aim to prevent an avalanche from hitting the driveway of two specific homes.
An out-pour of community outrage has ensued since the county approved the project in 2020. Despite the community opposition, the construction of the fences is now underway.
While avalanche fences are effective, professionals feel there are better options. Alternatives exist which do not cause as much harm to wildlife and do not create extreme visual degradation.
Avalanche testimony by Colorado Avalanche Information Center boss Ethan Green in a criminal case could hinder the function of the agency, according to the state Attorney General.
Evan Hannibal provided his helmet video of the avalanche he triggered above Interstate 70 last March. The avalanche buried a service road and destroyed an avalanche mitigation installation protecting I-70. He thought the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) would use his submission to help educate others.
But Summit County prosecutors used the video for a criminal case. They seek restitution for the damaged avalanche mitigation device.
Now Attorney General Weiser has stepped in, asking Judge Casias to reject having state employees testify. He cites several reasons, such as their busy winter work schedules.
Two Alpine Meadows avalanche lawsuits have been filed by the widow and a friend of a dead skier. They accuse the resort of negligently rushing to open the unsafe slopes for a busy holiday weekend.
Cole Comstock, 34, of Blairsden, California, was killed. His close friend Kaley Bloom was seriously injured. They were caught in an avalanche on an Alpine Meadows ski run on Jan. 17, 2020. Nobody else was seriously hurt.
The two Alpine meadows avalanche lawsuits were filed in Placer County Superior Court by Bloom and by Cole’s widow. They seek unspecified damages from Alpine Meadows. The allegations include negligence, gross negligence and breach of contract. Raymond’s lawsuit also alleged the resort was to blame for her late husband’s death.