SALT LAKE CITY — As the Beehive State approaches avalanche season, the Utah Department of Transportation has new tools to keep people safe.
UDOT uses detonations to trigger avalanches in unstable areas to minimize the risk of unexpected slides. For years, their primary method was to fire artillery through the canyon from a howitzer cannon.
Over the last two to three years, UDOT has installed new detonation devices in Little Cottonwood Canyon and tested them Friday.
The Gazex detonators are fixed devices that are installed in risky areas of the canyon. A propane/oxygen gas mixture inside the devices causes explosions above the snow, where operators say it is most effective.
When it is necessary to trigger an avalanche, UDOT workers can cause detonations remotely.
“You don’t have the live artillery. We don’t have to scramble artillery crews if we have a risky area or concern of an area. We have those risky areas already mapped out and that’s where we’re placing these Gazex devices,” said John Gleason, UDOT spokesman.
This year, there are seven new Gazex detonators in Little Cottonwood Canyon. There are now 24 total in the canyon. While they are using more of the new technology, they will still use artillery from time to time.