Not aliens, Alta pods help with avalanche control

May 10, 2022, 12:04 PM
(Alta Ski Resort)...
(Alta Ski Resort)
(Alta Ski Resort)

LITTLE COTTONWOOD CANYON, Utah —Those who look up on the mountaintops in the winter may see some alien-looking pods watching over the skiers and snowboarders. While they may look unearthly, they’re actually an integral part of Alta’s avalanche control systems.


The egg-shaped devices are called O’Bellx, which according to Alta’s website, are a new form of Remote Avalanche Control Systems (RACS) from a French Company. Instead of the TNT and Howitzer artillery outdoorsmen may be more familiar with, these devices mix oxygen and hydrogen in small explosions, creating controlled avalanches.

With an average of 540″ of snow each season, it becomes imperative for Alta to be up to date with the newest technology for avalanche safety and prevention. According to this article, “Alta Ski Area is recognized as the birthplace of North American avalanche research.”

The website states, “The 1,200-pound O’Bellx module—the egg-shaped thing that is not an alien space pod—is stocked with hydrogen and oxygen and flown into place. The device is then controlled remotely via phone, radio or similar device. A “shot” can be fired in as little as 13 seconds and can be synchronized with nearby modules. Each module holds between 30-35 shots. Once empty, the module is flown back to a refueling area via helicopter, then flown back to its home on Mount Baldy.”


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These pods have several advantages over other RACS:

  • Remote-controlled firings are possible 24 hours a day, seven days a week regardless of issues with weather, snow or visibility
  • Hydrogen and oxygen are readily available and require considerably less oversight than similar explosive devices
  • This drastically reduces the number of hand charges or artillery used by the Alta Ski Patrol
  • Unlike Gazex towers, underground or above-ground pipelines are not necessary
  • The O’Bellx pods can be relocated in the summer months, reducing visual pollution

So as you see these come down from the mountain for the summer, rest assured there’s no invasion, but a new tool to keep our outdoor recreationalists safe.

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Not aliens, Alta pods help with avalanche control