Motorists Reminded That Avalanche Control Work May Temporarily Close Highways This Winter

January 12, 2012 - Statewide Transportation - STATEWIDE— With the recent snowfall and several more months of winter, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) would like to remind motorists of the possibility of avalanche control missions that may temporarily shut down highways so crews can mitigate the potential for avalanches along our highways.

Every year, CDOT regularly monitors and controls 278 of the 522 known avalanche paths in Colorado.

“We realize the impacts that avalanche control can have on traffic, but for the safety of the traveling public, it is important we remove the unstable snow and minimize the avalanche danger in a controlled environment,” said Dave Wieder, CDOT Maintenance and Operations Branch Manager.  “While many of our control missions are fairly quick, it is impossible to predict how much snow we will bring down on any given mission or how long a closure will be in place. For this reason, we ask that motorists be patient and understand that we will reopen the highway as soon as it is safe for the traveling public.”

To help predict avalanche conditions and the necessity for avalanche control, CDOT teams up with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center who studies forecasts and current weather conditions.  Some factors that increase the risk of avalanche danger are large quantities of new snow, high winds and drastic changes in temperatures.

When there is a high risk of avalanche danger, CDOT will close highways at the location of the avalanche path in order to conduct avalanche control.  Once all the unstable snow has been brought down, CDOT crews have to clear all of the snow and debris from the roadway before reopening the highway to traffic.

Anytime CDOT conducts avalanche control, messages will be posted on electronic signs in order to inform motorists of the road closure.  In addition, motorists can visit the web at or call 511 for current road and weather information and updates on avalanche control work.  Motorists can also sign up for e-mail and text message alerts by visiting and clicking on the cell phone icon in the upper right corner.

During the 2010-2011 winter season, CDOT crews triggered 283 avalanches that impacted highways and handled 158 natural occurrences for a total of 441.  As a result of the avalanche control work, CDOT experienced 841 hours of road closures at various locations statewide resulting in a total of 29,866 feet of snow covering the centerline of the highway.  CDOT also spent 7,618 hours on avalanche mitigation.