The largest and most extensive avalanche detection network in the world has been installed in Glacier National Park. The $3-million structure was installed over the past year in Rogers Pass, a high mountain pass in Glacier. Designed by the Swiss, it uses two technologies to detect avalanches.
One system involves 13 infrasound panels that sense low-frequency sound while the other uses three radar detectors. Even the slightest sound vibration from a powder cloud when an avalanche hits will be detected. In addition, the avalanche detection system allows authorized users to see important avalanche details such as avalanche velocity and duration on an online data portal. Instant alerts are also sent to selected individuals by text message.
The heart of Glacier National Park, Rogers Pass is the busiest rail and road corridor to the Pacific Coast. The Trans-Canada Highway runs through the pass and connects Canada’s east and west coasts. Serving as a crucial route, the high mountain pass is particularly susceptible to heavy snowfall and avalanches, leading to frequent closures. There are approximately 134 avalanche paths in just a 42 kilometer stretch of the highway over the pass.
On top of the new avalanche detection system, the Canadian Military will also be playing a crucial role in reducing avalanche risk. The previous operation involved military gun detachments blasting Howitzer shells at the mountainside. While this was effective, it involved extended road closures in order to complete the process. Now the Canadian Military will work alongside the new technology.
With avalanche related deaths and injuries increasing every year, will this new technology be the solution? With the first system in place in Canada, will other areas in the world consider investing in one? Either way, major efforts are being made to reduce avalanche risk.