Utah Installing New Wyssen Avalanche Control Systems

Mike Lavery | | AvalancheAvalanche
A Wyssen Tower getting reloaded. Photo: Wyssen

Anyone that regularly visits the Cottonwood Canyons in Utah knows that the Utah DOT does a lot of avalanche control. Last year they installed an new automated control system from the Swiss company Wyssen. The brand is well known around Europe, and even in Canada, but this was the first installation of its kind in the United States.

Typically Utah DOT has used artillery and Gasex systems for much of their avalanche control. With ammunition hard to come by, and Gasex systems being complex installations, they were searching for a better solution. The Wyssen Remote Avalanche Control System (RACS) is a compact, self contained unit that can be installed just about anywhere and is triggered remotely. Single charges drop on a rope from the tower and detonate above the snow, which allows them to impact a larger area than charges detonated in the snow. Each tower holds 12 explosives, which are reloaded via helicopter…which would probably be pretty cool to watch.

The RACS near Alta. Photo: Wyssen

The first Wyssen RACS was installed in Little Cottonwood Canyon in the fall of 2017 in Cardiff Bowl, right across the canyon from Alta ski area. Even with a lousy snow year, the RACS was used quite frequently with great results. The Utah DOT is currently installing 8 more Wyssen systems along the Wasatch front, which will hopefully make control work speedier and get the roads open faster on those big Utah powder days.

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