The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) recently shared video of workers preparing for the winter avalanche season by testing the agency’s Howitzers in Big Cottonwood Canyon.

On November 22, UDOT shared video of crews testing the agency’s Howitzers, which are used to trigger controlled avalanches to help keep roadways including SR-190 and SR-210 safe during the winter months.

UDOT said that the test firing process is important because it allows crews to verify predetermined targets in known avalanche areas. This way, when inclement weather causes poor visibility conditions, the Howitzers can be fired based on targeting information gathered during the test firing.

In addition to Howitzers, UDOT uses a variety techniques to create a controlled avalanche, including explosives placed by hand or dropped by helicopter; Avalaunchers, which use compressed gas to launch a small explosive; and remote avalanche control systems (RACS). RACS are small towers installed on known avalanche paths that use fuel/air mixtures to create small, pinpoint explosions when remotely activated by UDOT crews.

“Our goal is to make sure people can travel safely in our canyons throughout the winter,” said Steven Clark, UDOT avalanche program manager. “We’re always working to keep these vital highways open as much as possible, so Utahns and visitors can get to our state’s world-class outdoor recreation areas.”

“UDOT is one of the leaders in transportation avalanche mitigation,” Clark said. “We utilize the newest technologies and are always looking to incorporate new techniques and equipment to ensure safety for all canyon travelers.”

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