Several memes running through this blog come wonderfully together in Gazex®, an anti-avalanche system manufactured by Technologie Alpine de Sécurité (TAS): terrestrial augments, wilderness access, urban/wild interface, disaster urbanism, climate change and (admittedly a stretch) fountains.
From a distance, they look like disembodied talons jutting out from the rockface, ready to prick at imminent disasters. With their array of remote sensors, they are constantly reading the landscape; the mountains are kept under constant surveillance, lest they want to endanger quaint Alpine hamlets and new luxury ski resort developments above Denver or lose skiers to the wintry wilds.
When an avalanche is deemed likely, it detonates a mixture of oxygen and propane gas in its explosion chamber. The resulting hot gas is then directed downwards to the zone at risk.
TAS describes their product as the best avalanche prevention mechanism, as there are “no explosives to handle and no personnel interventions in or near danger zones.” But will there be any market for it in the near future? At least in the Alps, demand may soon vanish due to “a change in the large-scale weather pattern.”
From New Scientist:
In the late 1980s, there was a dramatic step-like drop in the amount of snow falling in the Swiss Alps. Since then, snowfall has never recovered. In some years, the amount that fell on the plateau between Zurich, Bern and Basel was 60 per cent lower than was typical in the early 1980s, says Christoph Marty at the Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Davos. He has analysed snowfall trends spanning 60 years and adds that the average number of snow days over the last 20 winters is lower than at any time since records began more than 100 years ago.
The future of winter tourism in the region is looking grim.
Maybe TAS should start manufacturing artificial snow machines? Preferably not.
Should you want to see it in action, you can download this video. There is another, but that file may be corrupt, as it won't unzip for us.
It's the new version of Geoff's Earth-Fountain©, the present memorial to a vanishing landscape and the future memorial to an extinct one. Depending on who you ask, that bang echoing through the valley will be regarded as a mournful wail or a joyful bellow heralding the arrival of something new.
Sites of Managed Anxiety
Wearable Anti-Avalanche Homes