Helicopters dropping explosives on snowy mountain peaks is a thing of the movies, but it is also part of an outdated model of controlling avalanches worldwide. British Columbia jumps on board the process this year of improving the method in order to mitigate avalanche delays on Trans-Canada Highway 1, the freeway that connects Vancouver, B.C., to all points east.
The British Columbia Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, Todd Stone, says the new system will create shorter delays on the highway near Revelstoke, B.C., with work to start yet this winter.
“In June of last year I committed to improving the safety and mobility of the Trans-Canada Highway near Revelstoke as part of B.C. on the Move, our 10-year transportation plan,” Stone says. “The first of these new avalanche mitigation systems will be in operation this winter and will lessen the duration of highway closures due to avalanches.”
The $2.1 million contract was awarded to Wyseen Avalanche Control Inc. and will replace the process of deploying explosives from helicopters to initiate avalanches while the highway is closed. Control this way can only be done during daylight hours and when weather conditions are favorable, which can lead to extended closures.
The new Remote Avalanche Control Systems will get installed near Three Valley Gap outside of Revelstoke, allowing for avalanche control on a 24-hour basis throughout the winter. The system allows operators to fire the charges remotely so that avalanche control can be completed at any time, under any weather condition.
Eight separate remote-firing systems will be installed at key locations along the south side of Three Valley Lake. Crews plan to install three systems this fall, with the remaining five to get installed next year once additional site investigations are complete.
Follow Tim Newcomb on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.