Crews completed one of two helicopter operations Monday to install an avalanche mitigation system on Monarch Pass.

A helicopter carried buckets, each containing about 1/3 cubic yard of concrete, from the parking lot of Monarch Mountain to the site known as “Big Slide,” just north of the ski area.

The entire operation took about three hours, project manager Jim Zufall said, with traffic control in place for about 2½ hours. He estimated the helicopter made about 45 trips.

Traffic on Monarch Pass was halted intermittently for about 20 minutes at a time during the operation, Zufall said.

The operation began at about 9 a.m. and finished at noon. The road was reopened at about 11:30 a.m., Zufall said.

The Gazex exploder is fixed in place and can be remotely operated. It creates a large explosive air blast with six parts oxygen and one part propane. Jamie Yount, Colorado Department of Transportation mountain operations manager, said it’s more effective than placing explosives in snow and can be operated at night.

The operation helped form the bases for the three exploders and the slab on which the shelter will be placed.

Zufall said the pilot did an excellent job, holding the helicopter steady when the wind kicked up near the end of the operation.

There should only be a couple more days of traffic impacts on the pass, Zufall said, one to install the exploders and another to test them.

He said the installation, which will require a different helicopter, will probably take place in the next 10 days to two weeks. Most of the big work is now done, Zufall said.

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