They look a hell of lot like NASA reentry capsules but CDOT assures us they are very much a terrestrial device (put away the tinfoil hat kook). They’re called O’BELLX® avalanche mitigation pods and are being installed in 15 locations around Colorado as another weapon in the never ending fight to keep the highways safe and passable. There is a ton of info below or you could explore for complete info:

→ This innovative preventive control solution comprises an active and semi-permanent module(site where the explosion occurs) placed on a fixed foot bracket positioned in avalanche start areas.

Functional ADVANTAGES :


  • Available 24 hours a day, regardless of weather conditions and self-contained during the entire winter season.
  • No handling of explosives or human intervention in the area to be made safe to position the explosion above the snowpack.
  • Readily supplied (short and long term) consumables (oxygen & hydrogen) at low cost and with no significant constraints on storage.
  • Training and approval requirements are minimal: system fully remotely, can be installed in very inaccessible sites.

INNOVATIVE: « for improved performance »

  • Very rapid implementation: 13 seconds per firing, no waiting time between firings, possible to synchronize firings for several devices.
  • Simple maintenance and gas recharging (module removable in a single helicopter rotation and considered as a non-explosive gas appliance by air traffic authorities).

ECOLOGICAL: « an environmentally-friendly system »

  • No pipelines and very limited civil engineering work.
  • Removable at end of season to reduce the visual impact on the slopes and protect the system from any rockfall.
  • No polluting residue produced by the explosion.
  • Can be installed in national parks or nature reserves.

> Download O’Bellx leaflet (.pdf)

  “With 24/7 availability and remote control operation, O’BellX® systems will ensure timely, effective avalanche control which reduces the likelihood of destructive avalanche events and allows the work to be conducted in a safe operating environment.”


Foot Bracket:

  • Embedded during the summer period in the slide path to be equipped, the system’s active module is fitted during the operating period
  • Comprises a hot dipped galvanized steel tower and stainless steel guide rails. Weight: 475 kg
  • Anchored to a concrete sole plate by 4 GEWI bars or by glacier deadweight
  • Optional solution available to increase the module height if necessary

Semi-Permanent Module:

  • Fitted to its bracket just before the winter season
  • Shot capacity based on storage capacity for cylinders: 30 to 35 firings
  • Weight: 530 kg excluding cylinders, transportable by helicopter in a single rotation
  • Self-sufficient in power: electrically powered by battery, recharged by regulator and solar panels built into the shell
  • Gas injection time: 13 seconds
  • Remotely operated by radio, GSM or GPRS link
  • Operated by Gazex® Manager software
  • Certified operation to –30°C
  • Integrated temperature measurement
  • Monitoring of pressure in the gas cylinders and battery voltage
  • Preventive maintenance integrated in the Gazex® Manager software
  • Seismometer confirmation of firing
  • Developed to comply with European CE Directives
  • Available with specific handling trolley

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