SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– The recent snowfall has raised the avalanche danger in Colorado’s high country just in time for the busy holiday season in the mountains. But the Colorado Department of Transportation has a secret weapon: Gazex.
The fresh snow that fell this week has piled up on top of the old snow which is creating some considerable avalanche danger in the backcountry.
“It’s great for winter recreation but it has increased the avalanche danger at a considerable level three out of five,” said Colorado Avalanche Information Center Director Ethan Greene. “With the storm coming in and the wind moving everything around, it can make a lot of smaller avalanches.”
Gazex uses propane and air to create controlled avalanches that can alleviate the risk of a larger, potentially deadly slide.
The avalanche mitigation system has been installed on Berthoud and Loveland Passes.
“It seems like a great advance, it’s something that we’re still getting used to but it’s working well and it seems to be performing the way that we would expect,” said Greene.
Forecasters with the CAIC believe the danger may drop this weekend but may increase again when more snow falls.
“It also starts to build up a slab on top of some really weak snow that we have,” said Greene.
For backcountry snowboarder Patrick Miller, the threat of a slide is all to real.
“Parts where the snow would fracture and break, we didn’t get on anything that was steep enough to slide, we kept it real low-angle,” said Miller. “It’s snowed a lot in the last couple of days but as you can see it’s been really, really windy and the snow under it is kind of junk, not that great.”