The 2016-2017 winter season will see a few important changes in the management of State Route 210, Little Cottonwood Canyon Road. Many of these changes will hinge on the avalanche hazard mitigation program led by the Utah Department of Transportation Avalanche Safety Program.
-SR-210 stakeholders have agreed to begin avalanche mitigation work earlier each day on a condition-dependent basis. This means that rather than the usual 6:00 AM road closure, 6:30 AM Town of Alta Interlodge Travel Restriction, and 7:00 AM artillery mission, the goal is now to begin the artillery mission at 6:30 AM. The goal of this change is to mitigate congestion on SR-210 and on adjacent roadways in the Salt Lake Valley by ending road closures earlier, which can impact regional traffic in some conditions. Caynon residents, businesses, and employees should continue to follow Alta Central on Twitter @AltaCentral, as well as Unified Police Department (UPD) Canyon Patrol @CanyonAlerts for real-time notification of SR-210 conditions and restrictions, as well as road closure plans and updates. Alta locals can also find up-to-date road status and interlodge closure information on the Town of Alta website at http://townofalta.com/road/.
-UDOT Avalanche Safety is implementing a revised policy for backcountry closures in Little Cottonwood Canyon this winter to help get SR 210 open quickly and safely, keep it open, and reduce the likelihood of backcountry travelers exposed to avalanche explosives work. In recent winters, UDOT Avalanche worked with law enforcement agencies to close various portions of Little Cottonwood Canyon to backcountry recreational travel. However, the surging popularity of backcountry recreation in the Wasatch Mountains has created an elevated threat to public safety, and this winter the agencies involved will enforce an expanded backcountry closure in Little Cottonwood Canyon the night before any planned avalanche mitigation work. It will include the White Pine parking area, and White Pine trail up to its split with the Red Pine trail. The closure will extend west down canyon to SR 210 closure gate B. Additionally, a 1000 meter buffer will be closed along the ridgeline into Big Cottonwood Canyon to protect from shrapnel. If this revised plan does not work, more restrictive closures may be needed.
-UDOT Avalanche Safety is actively investigating alternatives to the long-standing, artillery-based avalanche mitigation program in Little Cottonwood Canyon. Beginning in 2015, UDOT Avalanche has conducted a series of studies of how various methods of avalanche mitigation could work in different portions of Little Cottonwood Caynon, with primary goals including a major reduction in the firing of artillery directly over occupied buildings. Initial efforts analyzing both active and passive avalanche control methods have developed a range of preferences for reducing the use of artillery, primarily through installation of remote-controlled devices call Gaz-Ex and Obell’X. UDOT Avalanche is proceeding to refine plans for individual segments of the canyon, and over the next couple of summers, UDOT may begin to install Gaz-Ex and Obell’X in areas including the Alta Bypass road and the Hellgate Cliffs. UDOT Avalanche is working on several other improvements to their detection, mitigation, and closure programs, all with the goals of reducing road closure times, and making mitigation work safer and more effective.