B.C.’s remote avalanche-control systems ready for avalanche season

British Columbians can expect shorter closures and delays on Highway 1, now that the Province has completed the avalanche-control system west of Revelstoke by installing five new remote avalanche-control stations.

“The highway network is critical to transportation between rural communities and the ministry is dedicated to reducing delays and closures due to avalanche,” said Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena. “This expanded remote-control system allows our technicians to reduce the risk of uncontrolled avalanches and keep the highway open and safe for motorists.”

It looks like something out of Star Wars. Large metal towers dominating a vantage point over a frozen cliff face that suddenly drop explosives charges, triggering a wall of snow that cascades down the mountain.

$2.3 million has been invested in remote avalanche-control systems in Three Valley Gap, west of Revelstoke. This year, the total number of stations has been increased from four to nine in time for winter.

Crews are seen installing the Remote Avalanche Control System at Three Valley Gap in this image courtesy of Wyssen.

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While previous technology relied on a helicopter dropping detonations in specific conditions, remote avalanche-control systems allow technicians to conduct explosive control missions on a 24-hour basis with the use of a laptop. This means they can easily control when and how long road closures take place, reducing the effect on B.C. highways.

During avalanche season, drivers can expect some closures either due to high avalanche hazard conditions or to allow for avalanche control; however, with the new technology in place, the average closure length is expected to be reduced by approximately 50%.

Motorists are reminded to obey traffic-control personnel if traffic is stopped while avalanche-control work with explosives is taking place.

The ministry provides a provincewide program, which manages more than 60 avalanche areas and includes almost 1,400 individual paths. This work is done by highly trained experts who monitor weather and snowpack conditions continuously.