Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.
AVALANCHE CONTROL. 37 5 Avalanche Control. Control techniques used in the United States are comparable to those used in other industrialized mountain countries. However, there is a growing disparity between the type and extent of techniques used in the United States and those used in such countries as Switzerland, France, and Austria where a long-term commitment to the reduction of avalanche hazards has achieved greater progress in avalanche control and a higher priority for public safety. The objective of avalanche control is to reduce or eliminate the hazard from potentially destructive avalanches. Methods for accomplishing this include (1) active methods, which involve systematic attempts to artificially trigger small nondestructive avalanches as a means of reducing the hazard as well as to test the accuracy of avalanche hazard forecasts, and (2) passive methods, which include anchoring or modifying the snow in avalanche starting zones so as to eliminate the release of large destructive avalanches and the construction of various structures to divert or dissipate the force of an avalanche in track or runout zones. ARTIFICIAL RELEASE OF AVALANCHES Avalanches may be initiated by detonating high explosives either in or above the snowpack. When such artificial triggers produce avalanches, impressions about snow stability can be ascertained, and options for avoiding the consequent hazards can be formulated. When efforts to trigger avalanches fail, however, it should not be concluded that the snowpack is necessarily stable (Gubler, 1983; Pratt, 1984; Penniman, 1987). Mechanical shear loading to the snowpack in starting zones can be accomplished with or without explosives. Explosives can be used to drop cornices or release smaller sluffs from above onto large avalanche starting zones (McCarty et al., 1986). This safe and effective way of applying large shear loads to a slope is often helpful in determining the stability of the snowpack and in triggering avalanches. Under certain conditions, cornices can be safely kicked loose by experienced technicians to test the stability of lower slopes. Alternative experimental methods for releasing avalanches include gas detonated above buried canisters (e.g., GAZ.EX), air- bag inflation, and âseismic explorationâ air guns (LaChapelle,
AVALANCHE CONTROL. 38 1977, 1978; Penniman, 1989b; Tremper, 1990; D. Abromeit, U.S. Forest Service, written communication, 1990). Since 1933 the most versatile and practical techniques for artificially triggering avalanches utilize various forms of high explosives to induce a shock wave into the snowpack (Fraser, 1966; Seligman, 1962). Over 100,000 explosive charges are detonated annually for avalanche control (Perla, 1978b). The equivalent of 1 kg (2.2 lb) of TNT has been established by tradition as the standard charge for testing snow stability, but larger charges can and often are used when necessary, and smaller charges may be adequate for thin new snow (Perla, 1978b). The best results with explosives are achieved from detonations that occur 1â2 m (3â6 ft) above the snow surface or on rock surfaces near the target areas in starting zones. Correct placement and correct timing of explosive detonations are critical to their effectiveness (Gubler, 1977, 1983; LaChapelle, 1978) and are often a matter of local experience. Techniques that utilize explosives have been reasonably safe and effective for the majority of snow conditions when strict safety precautions are observed and generally accepted control procedures are followed. However, with certain conditions, such as wet snow, explosives have often been unreliable. Some serious safety problems remain unresolved, as will be noted later; liability issues are discussed by Fagan and Cortum (1986). A variety of delivery systems are currently in use, the most common of which is hand delivery. This technique, widely used at U.S. ski areas, requires avalanche control technicians to ski or walk to predesignated delivery sites and physically throw charges into known avalanche starting zones. Costs are comparatively low when a large number of avalanche paths are concentrated in easily accessible areas, and the placement of explosives can be widely adjusted to achieve greater effect in various snow deposition patterns. Disadvantages of hand charging are that the procedure cannot be readily performed at night or during extreme storms and the avalanche control technician may be exposed to hazardous conditions. Suspending the charge at the desired height above the snow surface or on rock surfaces is also impractical without significantly increasing the cost and time necessary to conduct operations. Experiments in Switzerland with booms that swing out over a starting zone to suspend a charge have had some success; apart from the Alpental ski area in Washington, none are in current use in the United States. The hand charge is currently the predominant explosive system for avalanche control in terms of the number of explosive charges. The hand-charge system, ignited with a pull wire, seems to be relatively safe, as few explosive accidents have occurred despite wide variation in the types of explosives used and the broad range of deployment conditions. Areas under U.S. Forest Service (USFS) permit were, at one point, required to develop safety plans for training personnel in the use of hand charges, but there has been reluctance among some suppliers of explosives to be involved with hand-thrown applications due to a lack of studies about the reliability of the assembled hand-charge configuration as well as distrust toward departures from standard procedures used in normal blasting practices. Two hand-charge accidents in 1973 at Mammoth Mountain, California, probably involved some aspect of the pull-wire fuse igniter attachment and led to formal testing of the hand-charge system by the Naval Weapons Center at China Lake, California, at the request of the USFS. Testing revealed that the system in use at the time could experience detonation from electrostatic fields, thus indicating the need for a grounded or nonconductive fuse. The primary cause of the accidents was apparently poor operational procedures. The test report concluded that the USFS should institute a procedure for certifying proficiency in handling
AVALANCHE CONTROL. 39 of specific detailed safety instructions: âThese must be specific, not broad, platitudes such as âthe operation shall be conducted in a safe manner'â (Austin et al., 1974). It is difficult to prepare specific safety guidelines without referring to a specific hand-charge system (Perla, 1978b). Cable delivery systems are little used in the United States (Dombroski, 1988). These systems are being installed throughout much of Europe (Gubler, 1983) and in some parts of Canada. Of Austrian and German origin, over 120 cable explosive transport systems are now used in France alone for ski areas and transportation routes (Brugnot, 1987, 1989; Borrel, 1987; Rapin, 1989). Using manual or powered drives, cable delivery systems transport explosive charges to avalanche starting zones on a cable tramway. Once in position, sophisticated remote-control carriers automatically lower charges to the appropriate height above the snow surface and then detonate them. Cable systems more than 6 km long sometimes require computer-aided motor drive and radio-signaled explosive control (Brugnot, 1987). These systems can deploy several carriers at once, thereby saving time, and can be operated at night and in poor visibility from a safe location with maximum effectiveness, allowing inaccessible or dangerous starting zones to be remotely accessed. Depending on their design sophistication, cable systems can appear relatively expensive to build and to operate, yet they seem to be cost-effective. To some, there are aesthetic problemsâthe systems do not beautify the landscape. Regulations in France require the retrieval of explosive charges after a 30-minute delay if firing has failed (Brugnot, 1987). This creates operational difficulties but is in the interest of public safety. Helicopters can be used to deploy explosive charges by aerial bombing. They are also used to transport control technicians to otherwise inaccessible terrain for hand-charging operations. In the United States, Federal Aviation Administration regulations govern the operation of helicopters for the transportation of explosives and for aerial bombing operations. In the United States and Canada, helicopter delivery is commonly practiced by helicopter ski companies and by mining and construction companies for short-term projects (Gmoser, 1978; Perla and Everts, 1983). The method allows a very accurate and fast inspection of starting zones and placement of charges. Helicopter flights are, however, limited to favorable weather conditions, and explosive charges cannot be suspended above the snow surface or placed on rock surfaces to achieve maximum effect. In fact, because helicopter-dropped charges penetrate deeply into the snow, heavier than normal charges must often be used to gain the same effect as with a standard hand-thrown charge. Although the hazards of hand charging do not exist with aerial bombing, flying in mountainous terrain can be equally dangerous. Preplanted explosives systems have not been used much in the United States and have seen only limited use elsewhere. These systems have the advantage of being installed during good summer weather, and because they are detonated remotely, there is virtually no hazard to technicians. While the systems can provide control for otherwise inaccessible starting zones, they are very susceptible to mechanical failure due to stress on components buried by snow. Another disadvantage is that only a limited number of charges can be placed and only in fixed positions. The relative cost of installing remote systems is high, and the effectiveness of detonation in deep snow is questionable (Perla and Everts, 1983). In the United States the use of artillery is a predominant method of avalanche control. The advantage of artillery is that it can be fired at any time of the day or night, regardless of weather. Artillery rounds can also be fired into rock surfaces near target starting zones
AVALANCHE CONTROL. 40 of weather. Artillery rounds can also be fired into rock surfaces near target starting zones for better effect. As with aerial bombing, rounds that must be shot into the snow usually detonate below the surface and can be less effective in deeper snowpacks (Perla, 1978b). The resulting shrapnel can be a hazard, and overshooting is always a possibility, with the accompanying threat of property damage and injury. Both military-produced artillery and civilian-produced artillery are widely used by U.S. ski areas, highway departments, and industry. Military artillery pieces include 75-mm and 105-mm recoilless rifles (RR), the 75- mm mountain howitzer, and the 105-mm howitzer. Field tests of 106-mm recoilless rifles are scheduled for the 1989â1990 season (Penniman, 1989b; D. Abromeit, U.S. Forest Service, personal communication, 1990). The explosive content of ammunition for these weapons varies from about 0.7 to 3.5 kg (1.5 to 8.0 lb) of high-speed explosive. The supply of ammunition for the World War I 75-mm howitzers is limited, although in the past, at critical intervals, ammunition supplies have been âdiscovered.â Despite its age, this weapon remains one of the more popular rifles in use, especially in places where high accuracy and reliability are essential because of proximity to populated areas. In 1950 recoilless rifles were made available by the U.S. Army, which helped reduce dependence on the dwindling supplies of World War I ammunition and replacement parts for the 75-mm howitzers (LaChapelle, 1956, 1962). The recoilless rifles are lighter than the howitzers, and because of their low recoil they allow lighter support structures and permanent gun emplacements. Permanent gun emplacements in turn permit instrumental alignment for blind firing during periods of poor visibility. The recoilless rifle is the principal type of artillery currently used for avalanche control. Some areas are using this weapon by choice because its shorter range reduces the chance of overshoot into populated areas. Recoilless rifles require frequent vent inspection and vent replacement. A shortage of adequate spare vents is considered to be a major problem for some users. Once again, however, the major problem facing users is the possibility that aging ammunition may be withdrawn from the program, as it was in the summer of 1985 (Abromeit, 1988; D. Bowles, Utah Department of Transportation, personal communication, 1986). Inspections by the U.S. Army of ammunition prior to shipment are made on a lot-sample basis to ensure that the ammunition meets acceptable standards of use. To avoid interruptions in critical avalanche control programs, users have tried to maintain large ammunition inventories. While this provides a longer-term supply, it fails to address the level of inventory control and inspection formerly guaranteed by Army military storage and testing procedures. Current (1989) estimates indicate that for users of the 105-mm RR there is at least an 8-year supply of serviceable rounds and an additional 6 to 7 years of âunusable but repairableâ rounds (Penniman, 1989b). There is only about a 4-year supply for the 75-mm RR. For these reasons the U.S. Army has now relaxed its prohibition on civilian use of the 106-mm RR. However, this weapon is also out of production, and its use represents only a temporary solution. The only civilian artillery piece being used in this country, the âAvalauncher,â is produced in California by R. C. Peters Avalanche Control Systems. This device is a compressed air cannon that propels a 1-kg, rocket- shaped projectile a distance of 1 km (Atwater, 1968). The projectile detonates on impact and throws no shrapnel. Its range and accuracy are inferior to those of military weapons, but use of the Avalauncher could increase because users have been warned that military ordnance will be depleted within a few years at current
AVALANCHE CONTROL. 41 than do conventional military weapons. However, there are safety concerns, and production problems plague the manufacturer, leaving Avalaunchers and projectile parts in chronic short supply. Other substitutes for military weaponry have been proposed, but none have been developed (Perla, 1978b; Penniman, 1989b). CONTROLLING THE USE OF EXPLOSIVES Prior to World War II the USFS pioneered the use of explosives for avalanche control. Subsequent efforts by the USFS to obtain military weapons for avalanche control came shortly after World War II, when the first artillery tests for avalanche control were conducted with French 75-mm howitzers at Berthoud Pass and soon after at Alta (Kalatowski, 1988). An immediate result of these successful tests was the development and acceptance of a guideline âMemorandum of Understandingâ between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Army (J. Herbert, U.S. Forest Service, personal communication, 1986; Kalatowski, 1988). This memorandum defined the roles and responsibilities of the two departments in what would become the weapons program. Under the terms of agreement, the U.S. Army would supply surplus weapons and ammunition, with repair and training support, to local USFS offices. The USFS would administer the program and assume responsibility for training gun crews, operating the program, and maintaining public safety. The memorandum had the effect of making the USFS and the U.S. Army partners in selected areas and created a protective âumbrellaâ to spread the risks.1 During the early period, avalanche control artillery was fired by National Guard gun crews, with target selection by USFS snow rangers. While the firing by National Guard crews was highly professional, the lead time for weapons deployment was immoderately long compared to forecast lead time. By 1966 the roles were more clearly defined. In areas having a high hazard, defined as Class A, the USFS would provide snow rangers with avalanche forecasting and artillery control expertise. Areas with less serious avalanche problems were classified as Class B or Class C. Class B areas were monitored and assigned direct USFS control if they failed to provide adequate avalanche protection for the public. Class C areas did not require rifles or direct snow ranger supervision. Over time a gradual shift was made to the employment of ski-area personnel as gun crews, and the USFS's role was reduced to administrative monitoring with little hands-on gun time (D. Bowles, Utah Department of Transportation, personal communication, 1986). In some instances, weapons control programs have been developed by state agencies. Highway departments in Alaska, California, Colorado, and Washington have developed successful avalanche control programs similar to those of USFS-administered ski areas (LaChapelle, 1962). The state governments entered into local agreements, usually involving both their National Guard and the U.S. Army, to supply weapons and support.2 Generally, the resulting programs have faced problems similar to those encountered in USFS programs, mainly in the areas of spare parts, ammunitions availability, dud disposal, and gun crew training. MAJOR PROBLEMS IN THE USE OF EXPLOSIVES Unexploded charges (duds) represent one of the most serious operational problems facing explosives control programs, particularly for the artillery program (Abromeit, 1988). Self-destruct capabilities are not normally built into military warheads.
AVALANCHE CONTROL. 42 In many areas dud rates of 2 to 5 percent are common (D. Bowles, Utah Department of Transportation, personal communication, 1986). In most instances the rounds are fully armed but fail to explode on contact with the snow. Armor-piercing rounds are less sensitive and generate a larger percentage of duds. Rounds of high explosive plastic tracers (HEPT) have shown a dud rate up to 30 percent [D. Abromeit, cited by Penniman (1989b)]. Also, recoilless rifles yield a substantially increased dud percentage when used at over half the maximum range (Perla, 1978b). This increase is due to the influence of trajectory; with flat-trajectory grazing shots into soft powder, some projectiles skip back into the air and continue their flight to some other landing site. Unexploded rounds have been found at the maximum range for the weapon, which for the 105-mm recoilless rifle and the 75-mm howitzer is over 8 km (5 miles). Most duds fall into remote and inaccessible areas, but despite a low encounter probability many are found each year (Perla, 1978b). Military ordnance experience suggests that 10 percent of duds detonate spontaneously (D. Bowles, Utah Department of Transportation, personal communication, 1986). The remaining 90 percent remain fully armed in some unknown state of sensitivity. Because military ammunition is well constructed and sealed to withstand long-term exposure to extreme environmental conditions, duds may remain operational for years. Most areas using weapons have had this problem since the inception of weapons programs in the early 1950s, and the cumulative number of lost, fully armed, and sensitive explosive charges is probably in the thousands. Immediate retrieval of unexploded charges is generally impossible, and therefore dud control is included in the spring cleanup operations for area gun programs. The recovery rate is no more than about 50 percent. If an average dud rate of 3 percent is assumed for an average annual national projectile expenditure of about 6,000 rounds (cf. Perla, 1978b), a recovery rate of 50 percent implies 90 lost rounds per year (D. Bowles, Utah Department of Transportation, personal communication, 1986). Since artillery has been used for over 30 years, perhaps 3,000 unexploded rounds could exist in the U.S. backcountry, threatening recreationists. The current tendency for 105-mm RR users to switch to the more abundant HEPT rounds should exacerbate the dud problem (Penniman, 1989b; D. Abromeit, U.S. Forest Service, personal communication, 1990). Similar problems may arise with the 106-mm RR. With increased urbanization and use of backcountry areas, the probability of dud encounters is expected to increase. A second major problem is related to the Avalauncher, the only civilian artillery in use in the United States. Designed to meet a specific avalanche control problem, the Avalauncher provides short shots with low fragmentation and has the further advantage that duds are rapidly reduced to an inoperative condition by the open case design. Its initial development was supported by the USFS (Atwater, 1968), and further refinements have been made by the manufacturer. The projectile has a finned plastic case that can be loaded with any type of explosive, from cast primer to dynamite. Arming is achieved by air flow, removing an arming disk and safety pin as the projectile exits the barrel, and a magnetically retained firing pin initiates base detonation on impact. Ranges up to 1,500 m and beyond are possible, although the longer distances require a stronger projectile case to prevent case collapse in the barrel. English and French versions (Avalancheurs) are capable of distances up to 4,000 m (12,000 ft) (Brugnot, 1987); neither is used in the United States. The Avalauncher has been widely accepted for avalanche control, despite little official recognition by such branches of the government as the Federal Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Agency. The USFS lost interest in its development, though its view has been one
AVALANCHE CONTROL. 43 of benign neglect, neither approving nor disapproving its use. Avalaunchers are used today at many ski areas under USFS permit. The history of its use is further obscured by scant documentation by either the manufacturer or users (however, see Ream, 1990). Users have long recognized the Avalauncher's inherent defects, both in operational safety and quality control of the weapon and its design. Many users have implemented special operating procedures to resolve some of these problems and make its use somewhat safe (e.g., Marler and Fink, 1986). Because the Avalauncher is not a fail-safe system, the mechanism will fire with component failure in the firing or drive mechanism. As a result, air leakage can cause the mechanism to fire. A fatal accident in Chile involving an Avalauncher led to an analysis of the device by the USFS San Dimas Laboratory (Spray, 1983), which concluded that the fusing system then used did not conform to standard ordnance practice. Such flaws in design would not be tolerated in military systems, which are under tight administrative control, with crews thoroughly trained and obedient to specific operating documents. No such control or documentation is guaranteed for civilian operation, and this represents a serious problem that should be addressed. MECHANICAL COMPACTION AND DISRUPTION In the United States the stabilization of snow in avalanche starting zones through compaction is performed primarily by recreation facilities personnel such as at ski areas. The process densifies the snow, adding strength and reducing the tendency for future slope weakening through temperature gradient metamorphism. Compaction is accomplished by âboot packing,â skiing, or machine methods. Boot packing is performed by a group of individuals walking down a known avalanche path in early season. Though usually requiring only a single pass down the slope, this method is labor intensive, and in the United States has been limited to small, easily accessible avalanche paths. Ski compaction can be accomplished cheaply by skiing patrollers and by the public. Effective in breaking up cohesive snow slabs, the method is widely used in the United States and throughout the world. Machine compaction utilizes the weight of over-snow vehicles to densify the snowpack. The effect is similar to skiing but can be accomplished faster and with more uniform results. Nevertheless, machine compaction is not widely used, chiefly because of the inaccessibility of many starting zones and the current high costs of vehicles and cable belay systems. STRUCTURAL CONTROL OF AVALANCHES Structural avalanche control includes the natural or artificial anchoring of the snowpack in starting zones, structure-influenced redistribution of the snowpack in starting zones, and the structural protection of lives and property located in known or suspected avalanche paths. Destructive avalanches may be prevented by retention structures that anchor the snow in starting zones. Such structures are most commonly used where avalanches threaten permanent facilities, towns, or roads. Provided snow depths do not exceed design parameters, such structures have proved effective, although their reliability may be questionable when snow cover is deep and poorly cohesive (Brugnot, 1987). The most common retention structures in use include snow rakes, snow bridges, and nets (Thomman, 1986; Lazard, 1986).
AVALANCHE CONTROL. 44 Earthen terraces and rock-filled steel baskets (gabions) have been used in the past but are seldom used now. Steel or earthen retention structures are usually designed as permanent structures, while wooden retention structures (rakes and bridges) are temporary and are used in conjunction with reforestation (Fraser, 1966; Jaccard, 1986; Montagne et al., 1984). In the latter case the maturing trees are expected to take over the job of anchoring the snow, and the wooden structures are either left to disintegrate over time or are removed. While retention structures and avalanche path reforestation programs are used quite extensively in Europe and elsewhere, few have been instituted in the United States. Where snowpacks more than 4 m (12 ft) deep are common, as in the mountains of the Pacific coastal states, retention structures would have to be of massive proportions and are not economically feasible. In the Intermountain and Rocky Mountain states, however, where snow is less deep, retention structures could be installed more economically, but they would still be expensive and might encounter resistance on aesthetic grounds. In Switzerland structural control is subsidized by federal funds provided that building sites are selected in regard to avalanche zoning plans (Frutiger, 1972). Under certain conditions the size and frequency of avalanches can be reduced through structures that alter storm wind patterns and thereby alter the deposition patterns of snow in starting zones. Such devices are usually used in conjunction with supporting structures and are not intended to eliminate the threat of avalanches, but rather to influence the amount and pattern of snow that accumulates in the starting zone. They are currently being used in a few parts of the United States. One redistribution structure, called a âjet roof,â acts as a âventuriâ at the ridge line above avalanche starting zones (Perla and Martinelli, 1976). It reduces cornice buildup and causes wind-borne snow to deposit farther down the lee slope where inclinations are more gentle. Installation and maintenance may be expensive. Other redistribution structures include snow fences, which are usually located on flat ridge crests above starting zones or on windward ridges (Norem, 1978). Fences trap blowing snow in fetch areas before the snow can reach the starting zones or cornices above the starting zone. Redistribution structures are relatively inexpensive to build but have limited application. Their major disadvantage is that they are less effective when winds deviate from their prevailing directions or are absent altogether. Retarding or catchment structures, such as mounds, ditches, terraces, and dams can be designed to foreshorten runout distances of avalanches. Mounds and terraces usually are used to stop, divert, confine, or slow moving avalanche debris in the lower track or the runout zone of avalanche paths; some have been used in Colorado and Alaska (LaChapelle, 1962; Mears, 1981; Yanlong et al., 1980). Dams are usually designed to stop debris and are normally located in runout zones. Numerous mounds and terraces may also be positioned above the dams to decrease the impact force on the main structure. Retarding structures may be permanent, of earth, rock, and concrete construction, or may be large temporary berms of snow. An advantage of permanent retarding structures is their capacity to withstand tremendous impact forces. They require little maintenance once in place. A disadvantage is the short-term expense and the major visual transformation imposed on the landscape. Temporary structures made of snow are inexpensive to build and they disappear each summer, but they are not as strong as permanent structures, and maintenance is required after impact with major avalanches. Few permanent retarding structures have been built in the United States, but in Japan, Europe, and even in parts of South America they have been built with favorable results (Fraser, 1966; Mears, 1981;
AVALANCHE CONTROL. 45 Jaccard, 1986). Temporary structures built of snow have been successfully employed in California to reduce avalanche runout. Other structures can be designed to protect permanent facilities, such as sheds, galleries, and tunnels to protect railroads and highways; berms of earth, concrete, or snow to deflect avalanche debris; and wedge-shaped walls that divert moving debris around specific structures or facilities (Fraser, 1966; Mears, 1981). In the United States, railroad galleries and tunnels have had success in reducing the number of avalanche incidents involving trains, but few structures have been constructed to protect highways from avalanches (LaChapelle, 1962; Mears, 1986). Dependence has been placed on active control. A proliferation of other types of diversion structures can be found in Europe and other parts of the world (Fraser, 1966). In populated areas the possibility of avalanche debris being diverted to the benefit of some but the detriment of others must always be considered in their design. Other protective measures that make a structure more resistant to impact forces may be integrated into existing or proposed facilities; such measures include reinforcement, angled walls and roofs, and an assortment of protective shutters and doors for buildings located in avalanche paths. These adaptations can be more aesthetically pleasing than retarding or diversion structures, and their cost can be more easily amortized over the long term. Although a safe haven may be created, no protection is provided to people and property located outside the structures. The hazard of access into or out of reinforced structures remains unchanged unless diversion devices are also installed. New structures built in avalanche paths in the United States may have reinforcing features designed into their construction. Some local building codes require design considerations for inhabited buildings in avalanche paths (Mears, 1980), though uniform engineering standards do not exist. Questions may arise concerning appropriate engineering criteria and liability in the event of design failure. COMMENTS 1. No system providing accountability and effective channels for information transfer exists for developing and implementing safe procedures and transmitting related technological developments. In the early years of U.S. avalanche control, procedures for technology transfer were developed by a small group involving the USFS, USFS permittees, and the National Ski Patrol System. No such formal system exists now, although an ad hoc committee on weapons use, established in 1989 (Penniman, 1989b), after this report had passed review, represents a step in the right direction. A follow-up meeting was held in Seattle in May 1990 (D. Abromeit, U.S. Forest Service, written communication, 1990). 2. Improvements are needed in the handling of explosives. A development program is needed to test alternative weapons delivery systems, including other types of surplus artillery. There is still a need for an accurate and reliable short-range weapon with a large supply of ammunition. Accurate inventories of ammunition are needed, and crew training procedures should be reviewed and improved. 3. A formalized certification procedure should be established, and information and training should be widely available. Present training programs appear to be derived from the original Memorandum of Understanding and involve U.S. Army and USFS instructors. Areas with military weapons have each developed their own weapons training programs, and in most cases have retained crews for long periods of time. This has developed a local expertise that is stable if slightly ingrown. But the loss of crews through attrition or age, and
AVALANCHE CONTROL. 46 the need for additional weapons programs, will inevitably require additional training. There appears to be justification for a uniform nationwide weapons training program to include all explosive systems. Such a program might include a. careful development of instruction manuals; b. basic training in weapons handling to persons lacking experience; c. continued education in training and safety for personnel at all levels of experience; d. development of certification standards based on both written tests and weapons handling ability; e. training in procedures for weapons maintenance and ammunition storage and transportation; and f. training in the documentation, location, and disposal of duds. 4. The problem with duds is important and is increasing in severity, but despite some efforts to find a replacement for military ordnance, adequate solutions have not been developed. Indeed, use of HEPT rounds will likely exacerbate the problem. Alternatives include the development of a new projectile with self-destruct capabilities, increased emphasis on dud location, and more sensitive fusing. Explosive-carrying cable lift systems enable explosive loads to be retrieved if firing has failed (indeed this is compulsory in France; Brugnot, 1987). Therefore, one possible solution to the problem is to replace artillery with cable delivery systems. 5. Cable delivery systems offer some potential for U.S. industrial entrepreneurship, but developments in the United States substantially lag those in Europe. 6. The chief problem with structural control of avalanches is cost. The massive structures needed to stabilize deep snow on steep slopes are expensive to construct and must be regularly inspected and repaired. Yet routine maintenance is difficult to fund. 7. European experience on structural control procedures may be more or less directly transferred to the United States, if proper site evaluation is conducted prior to design and installation. NOTES. 1. Apparently, the governing statute is 10 USC 4655: âWhen required for the protection of public money and property, the Secretary of the Army may lend arms and issue ammunition to federal agencies upon request by agency headâ (D. Abromeit, U.S. Forest Service, written communication, 1990.) The latest Memorandum of Agreement with the USFS is dated July 1989, affecting 13 ski areas in 7 states. 2. Memoranda of Agreement exist between the U.S. Army and state government agencies in Alaska (March 1987), California (November 1989), Colorado (October 1987), Washington (February 1989), and Wyoming (June 1989) (D. Abromeit, written communication, 1990).