EMPIRE, Colo. (CBS4) – Berthoud Pass is notorious for snow slides and the Colorado Department of Transportation knows it.

“You see a lot of closures sometimes when the snow comes down and when we bring down the avalanches,” CDOT Program Engineer Peter Kozinski told CBS4’s Andrea Lopez.

“Berthoud Pass and US 40 from Empire working its way over to Winter Park has a lot of identified slide pass.”

Berthoud Pass, as seen on March 11 (credit: CBS)

Right now, CDOT uses artillery shells aimed at specific areas to bring down snow that’s in danger of sliding on its own. That’s time consuming and can mean closing the pass for safety reasons during the blasts and then following them because of cleanup.

Now CDOT wants to take a closer look at other ways of reducing avalanche danger.

“All the things would make it more efficient to bring down these avalanches, clear them and get the traveling public through are one of the reasons we’d look at an automated system or a remote detonated system,” Kozinski said.

One of those systems is made by the French company Gazex. It’s a remote controlled system that uses an oxygen-propane mix to force an explosion in the snow pack.

Exploder tubes are put at the top of avalanche risk zones. The shockwave forces the snowpack to fracture and then slide.

“These are going to be large investments so we want to make sure we are spending public dollars wisely,” Kozinski said.

CDOT hasn’t made any decision about new technology but the agency is already thinking about the future.

“We are already talking about how we could fund the first phase of this.”

Right now it is talking with mountain communities to see if a partnership could be set up to help fund the new technology.


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