What do you do when 10 feet of snow falls within 10 days on a mountain, creating potentially hazardous conditions? Create a controlled avalanche, of course.
That’s exactly what specialized technicians did last week in Stevens Pass, a skiing area in Washington’s Cascade Mountains.
“Active avalanche control is when crews intentionally trigger an avalanche. To do this, [the Washington State Department of Transportation] stops traffic and triggers the avalanche. Avalanche control must be done during heavy snowfall,” the WSDOT website states. “However, to be most effective, active control work is done just as the snow is becoming unstable; but before it slides.”
Technicians trigger the avalanche with explosives, which in this case were placed by a bombardier from a helicopter.
“We’re throwing a bomb out of a moving helicopter, we’re not hovering. So it is important that the timing is right,” Chris Brixey with Stevens Pass Pro Patrol said in a behind-the-scenes video.
“It’s a little unnerving to have [a 50-pound charge] and counting the 50 seconds of the 90-second safety fuse in your head and you’re already at 10 or 15 seconds,” Brixey added. “That’s plenty of time to be holding a lit charge. So, I definitely was eager to get that out the bird.”
But it comes with its reward: watching the result of detonation.
Watch the footage “in all its terrible glory”:
“It was just powerful. So powerful,” Brixey said.