Recreation impacts expected as UDOT adds 16 avalanche mitigation towers to popular canyon

An undated photo of crews installing Wyssen avalanche mitigation towers in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Utah Department of Transportation plans to add 16 more towers in the canyon over the next few months, beginning next week.

An undated photo of crews installing Wyssen avalanche mitigation towers in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Utah Department of Transportation plans to add 16 more towers in the canyon over the next few months, beginning next week. (Utah Department of Transportation)


Save Story
Leer en español

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

ALTA — Utah transportation officials say they plan to add more than a dozen new remote-controlled avalanche mitigation towers in Little Cottonwood Canyon over the coming months as they continue to pivot to a new way to handle potential avalanches in the canyon.

The Utah Department of Transportation plans to install 16 new Wyssen avalanche towers across the ridge of Mount Superior above state Route 210, which runs from the mouth of the canyon to Alta. Construction is slated to begin next week and continue through October.

The move will help improve the safety of all buildings in the town of Alta, according to Steven Clark, UDOT's avalanche safety program manager.

"This is going to eliminate all the overheard (howitzer) fire in Little Cottonwood Canyon except for a few buildings in the summer village area," he said.

The installation process isn't expected to result in any road impacts over the next few months. UDOT officials say some "occasional, short-term closures" are possible on SR 210, but drivers will be able to use the bypass road in the canyon as a detour around some of those closures.

Officials say there will be some recreation impacts in the canyon this summer and early fall, especially for those planning to recreate on Mount Superior.

Trails and climbing routes within the project area — generally on the north side of SR 210 across from Snowbird Resort — will be closed through the project's duration because crews will be working to reduce loose rock and unstable soil in the areas where the new towers are installed.

"We encourage everyone who recreates in the upper canyon to plan ahead," said UDOT Region 2 project manager Becky Stromness, 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."

This map shows where the new Wyssen avalanche mitigation towers will be located and sections that will be closed during the project.
This map shows where the new Wyssen avalanche mitigation towers will be located and sections that will be closed during the project. (Photo: Utah Department of Transportation)

Some additional noise is also expected because helicopters will be used to lower parts in the canyon.

The towers are expected to improve avalanche mitigation in the canyon. UDOT typically initiates more than 300 avalanches in Little Cottonwood Canyon every winter, closing the road and leaning on military-grade howitzers to blast areas where the highest avalanche potential is.

This year's project will build on efforts to phase out howitzers in avalanche mitigation. The agency started to turn to Wyssen towers over the past decade, which help roadway managers trigger mitigating avalanches remotely.

Clark said the remote towers won't eliminate avalanche mitigation-related canyon closures, but they are quicker and more effective than the old process. All of the new towers are expected to be operational for the upcoming winter.

He added that it will also make it less noisy for those living in Alta. Resident Zac Bahna told KSL-TV on Monday that the howitzer would rattle his condominium during the winters, sounding like "bombs going off." He believes switching over to the towers will feel safer, which he's thankful for.

Contributing: Brian Carlson

Most recent Utah transportation stories

Related topics

Utah transportationUtahOutdoorsSalt Lake County
Carter Williams is a reporter who covers general news, local government, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com.

STAY IN THE KNOW

Get informative articles and interesting stories delivered to your inbox weekly. Subscribe to the KSL.com Trending 5.
By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

KSL Weather Forecast