LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah — After 75 years of use, Alta Ski Area finally retired their avalanche mitigation Howitzer this season.

The history of the Howitzer (which falls between a cannon and a mortar) dates back to when World War II vet Montgomery “Monty” Atwater first arrived at Alta Ski Area in 1946. FOX13 reports Monty pioneered the groundbreaking idea of using a Howitzer to trigger dangerous avalanches. 3 years later in 1949 he finally got the go ahead from the U.S. Forest Service to test fire the French 75mm Howitzer inbounds and ever since it’s been a highly successful way to help keep skiers safe across the country.

“The Howitzer started here in Little Cottonwood Canyon at Alta and now, and from that 20 other ski areas in North America used what Alta— the patrollers, the snow rangers— what they used for avalanche mitigation at their ski areas.” –Andria Huskinson, Alta Communications Manager

Since the Howitzer came into service at Alta, more than 33,000 rounds of ammunition were fired triggering untold slides, keeping skiers safe on the hill. Ski patrollers fired the last rounds in during the record setting 2022-2023 snow season.

“It was time after 75 years to retire”Andria Huskinson

The Howitzer’s history will live on as patrollers continue to study and advance avalanche mitigation at the heart of where it all began.

“Really, we’ve been keeping people safe since we opened. So when you do get on the slopes, you don’t have to worry about anything, you just have to go have fun.”Andria Huskinson

Here’s a short documentary by the good folks over at Ski Utah celebrating the 75 years of service:

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