CDOT completes avalanche control project on U.S. Highway 50 Monarch Pass

November 22, 2019 - Southwestern Colorado

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Photo courtesy RockSol Consulting Group (project management): The Colorado Department of Transportation will begin utilizing a remotely controlled avalanche mitigation system on U.S. 50 Monarch Pass this winter. The photo shows one of three units installed recently, which will trigger controlled avalanches with compressed air and gas to provide safer driving conditions for motorists driving over the pass when avalanche danger is high. The system will also offer safer working conditions for CDOT employees and ski patrol crews who assist with avalanche mitigation operations.

CHAFFEE COUNTY — The Colorado Department of Transportation and contractor partner, Midwest Rockfall, Inc. recently completed the installation of new avalanche control equipment above U.S. Highway 50 Monarch Pass, about 15 miles east of Poncha Springs, near the Monarch Ski Area.  

As part of CDOT’s safety initiative, this new remotely controlled avalanche mitigation system, named Gazex, will improve safety for CDOT employees and ski patrol workers who assist with mitigation operations. Instead of handling live ordinances or ammunition, Gazex is a permanent installation on the mountain that uses compressed air and gasses to create a concussive blast to trigger a snow slide under controlled conditions. The system is triggered remotely by operators from a secured distance creating a safer operation.

The system will also improve safety for the traveling public. The system allows for increased frequency and nighttime or early morning operations when there are fewer vehicles on the highway. Avalanche mitigation efforts with this system will prevent large accumulations of snow and decrease the risk of unexpected, natural avalanches and long delays due to cleanup and extended closures.

The U.S. 50 avalanche control project included installation of a control shelter, which houses equipment needed for the operation of three remote avalanche control units above a known snow slide path near the Monarch Ski Area, between mile points 201 and 202. Similar remote controlled systems are also used on U.S. 40 Berthoud Pass and U.S. 6 Loveland Pass in Colorado. 


To heighten safety awareness, CDOT recently announced its Whole System — Whole Safety initiative. The initiative takes a systematic, statewide approach to safety combining the benefits of CDOT’s programs that address driving behaviors, our built environment and the organization's operations. The goal is to improve the safety of Colorado’s transportation network by reducing the rate and severity of crashes and improving the safety of all transportation modes. The program has one simple mission—to get everyone home safely.


CDOT has approximately 3,000 employees located throughout Colorado, and manages more than 23,000 lane miles of highway and 3,429 bridges. CDOT also manages grant partnerships with a range of other agencies, including metropolitan planning organizations, local governments and airports. It also administers Bustang, the state-owned and operated inter-regional express service. Governor Jared Polis has charged CDOT to further build on the state’s multimodal mobility options.