New Avalanche Control Systems in Place for US 6 Loveland Pass, CO 145 Lizard Head Pass

News Release

November 24, 2020 - Northwestern & Southwestern Colorado

SUMMIT, SAN MIGUEL & DOLORES COUNTIES The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has installed two new avalanche control systems in preparation for the 2020-2021 winter season. The new technology and remotely controlled systems will ensure safer avalanche mitigation missions for CDOT maintenance personnel and more efficient, reliable and safer travel conditions for motorists.


The Avalanche Guard system was installed by contractor Outdoor Engineers above US Highway 6 to help control avalanches from the Professor and Widow slide paths. The paths are located across US 6 from the Arapahoe Basin ski area. The new system is safer and reduces road closures that affect heavy ski traffic in the area. Fewer technicians are required to conduct mitigation, allowing more CDOT employees to focus on plowing and conducting other essential activities in the Summit County area. The new Avalanche Guard equipment will not affect the existing Gazex avalanche control system on US 6 Loveland Pass, which is located further north.

The Avalanche Guard system above US Highway 6 to help control avalanches

Taking advantage of new technology, CDOT continues to install new remotely controlled avalanche mitigation systems, like the one above, at several locations across the high country to help decrease the hazard of natural snow slides onto highways.  


Meanwhile in southwest Colorado, CDOT recently completed the installation of remotely controlled avalanche mitigation equipment above CO Highway 145 on the south side of Lizard Head Pass. Crews installed five towers on the mountain and ridgeline above the highway, about 1 mile north of Rico and 20 miles south of Telluride. The towers will be used for the controlled triggering of avalanches at known snow slide paths in this area. CDOT’s Avalanche Mitigation Program oversaw the installation of the units, performed by Wyssen Avalanche Control of Switzerland

In slightly snowy mountains, a crew is installing one of five towers above CO 145 in southwest Colorado

With traces of snow already on the ground, a crew is seen here installing one of five towers above CO 145 in southwest Colorado. CDOT personnel will use remote controlled technology to purposely trigger snow slides that could have the potential of reaching the highway below.

CO 145, via Lizard Head Pass, is the alternate route for travelers when the US 550 mountain corridor is closed for emergencies. The new avalanche mitigation system will help keep CO 145 open more readily, offering a higher, more dependable level of service for motorists, particularly when avalanche conditions are occurring in the San Juan Mountains during significant winter storm cycles.

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


Travelers are urged to “know before you go.” Gather information about weather forecasts and anticipated travel impacts and current road conditions prior to hitting the road. CDOT resources include:

To slow the spread of COVID-19, CDOT is reminding the public to wear a mask, avoid in-person interactions with people from outside their household, and wash their hands frequently. 


CDOT urges travelers to be aware of chain and traction law codes before heading out on the roadway.

  • Code 18/Commercial Chain Law: Commercial vehicles and trucks must have chains. Vehicles without chains can often lose traction, causing traffic delays and sometimes road closures. For the safety of the traveling public, it's critical to use chains to be in compliance with Colorado's chain law.

  • Code 15/Passenger Traction Law: All motorists are required to either have an all-wheel or four-wheel drive vehicle, or (for two-wheel drive vehicles) snow tires or all-weather tires with a mud/snow designation. Tread depth on all tires must be at least 3/16" regardless of vehicle type. Vehicles that do not meet these criteria must carry chain devices or alternative traction devices such as an AutoSock. The law focuses on passenger vehicles, as commercial vehicles have their own restrictions. It is unlawful to proceed when a state highway is closed or to proceed when a restriction is in effect without the required traction equipment. Violators will be given a citation, which comes with a $100 fine and $32 surcharge. That jumps to a $500 fine with a $156 surcharge if a violation results in the closure of one or more traffic lanes.

  • Code 16/Passenger Chain Law: All passenger vehicles need chains, except for 4WD and AWD vehicles with all-weather tires with 3/16 inch tread depth.


Safe transportation infrastructure is essential for all of us, particularly for emergency first responders and freight drivers as Colorado navigates the COVID-19 pandemic. With that in mind, CDOT maintenance and construction crews follow social distancing and other health safety measures to reduce COVID-19 exposure on the worksite. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment announced guidelines for construction activities. The public is urged to join the campaign for #DoingMyPartCO by practicing social distancing and wearing face masks. As traffic returns to normal levels, motorists must drive cautiously and heed the speed limit so all of us can return home safely. 


In early 2019, CDOT announced its Whole System — Whole Safety initiative to heighten safety awareness. This 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.