CDOT to Install Remotely Controlled Avalanche Mitigation System on CO 145 Lizard Head Pass

News Release

August 4, 2020 - Southwestern Colorado

SOUTHWEST COLORADO — The Colorado Department of Transportation will begin the installation of remotely controlled avalanche mitigation equipment above CO Highway 145 Lizard Head Pass, about 1 mile north of Rico (MP 48.5 - 49.5). Construction efforts will consist of installing five towers on the mountain and ridgeline above the highway. The towers will be used for the preventative, controlled triggering of avalanches at known snow slide paths in this area. CDOT’s Avalanche Mitigation Program is overseeing the installation of the units, performed by Wyssen Avalanche Control of Switzerland. View a video about the Wyssen avalanche control system:

As part of CDOT’s Whole System — Whole Safety initiative this new remotely controlled system will ensure a safer avalanche mitigation program for both CDOT maintenance personnel and the travelling public. Remote systems have proven more reliable and safer for avalanche mitigation personnel to operate. The new system will also provide more efficient and swift avalanche control operations, making travel in the area safer for motorists. 

“CO 145 and Lizard Head Pass is the alternate route for travelers heading north when the US 550 mountain corridor is closed for emergencies,” said CDOT Winter Operations Program Manager, Jamie Yount. “This new avalanche mitigation system will help us keep CO 145 open more readily, offering a higher, more dependable level of service for motorists, particularly when avalanche conditions and cycles are occurring in the San Juan Mountains during significant winter storm periods.” 

CDOT currently operates more than 30 remote systems at several locations on high mountain highways and the I-70 mountain corridor. 


  • The project will take place on CO 145 over a six to eight week period. Crews will mobilize August 4. Work is expected to end in the beginning of September, weather dependent.
  • Regular work hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. No weekend work is anticipated. 
  • Generally, motorists should expect minimal traffic impacts since most work will take place off of the highway. 
  • Periodic full traffic closures will be required and will last for no more than 20-minute intervals, to facilitate rock scaling and helicopter operations. Otherwise, CO 145 will remain open as normal. 
  • A speed reduction of 40 mph will be enforced through the project work zone. 
  • Travelers are advised to visit for updated information through the duration of the project.

Map of CO 145 Lizard Head Pass, showing construction area about 1 mile north of Rico (mile points 48.5 - 49.5)

Project Location Map


Every winter, CDOT and its sister agency, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, regularly monitor and control some 278 of 522 known avalanche paths located above Colorado highways. The monitoring and mitigation help prevent natural avalanches from impacting public travel. 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 operations. While the road is safely closed to any traffic, avalanches are triggered. Maintenance crews with heavy equipment then clear the highway of any snow and debris that reached the road. The highway can then be re-opened for safer public travel.