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Ski Resort Setting Off Avalanche to Keep Skiers Safe | News

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Ski Resort Setting Off Avalanche to Keep Skiers Safe

LAS VEGAS -- Lee Canyon has fresh powder, and hundreds of skiers have been testing the slopes at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort.

However, many of them don't know an avalanche will happen on those slopes in a few days. While it sounds dangerous, it will be a man-made avalanche when no one is around.

The safety managers of the resort make the difficult climb through the steep terrain of Lee Canyon about three times a week to several areas of the resort and start digging.

They test the snow's strength and measure the layers of snowfall to make sure a natural avalanche doesn't happen on their watch.

"I see three, for sure, definitive layers," snow safety manager Greg French said.

In the past couple weeks, about two feet has fallen.

"Snow doesn't have to be deep to cause an avalanche, it just has to be a certain recipe," French said.

Right now that recipe is short a few ingredients, which may come this weekend.

French says there is a lot of loose snow on the surface called gropple.

Weather forecasters are calling for snow this weekend and if it is packed on, the gropple underneath could act like ball bearings with the snow on top sliding down.

"Rapid changes happen overnight, all the time," French said.

The resort is going to cause an avalanche on its own by shooting a giant gun at the hilltops.

A Vietnam-era, refurbished howitzer leased from the military.

A training video shows how powerful it is. Shooting the gun from nearly a mile away is a lot safer than former techniques. Safety crews used to set off explosives and ride down the hill ahead of racing snow.

The safety managers have training to use the gun. It is fired about 10 times a year for man-made avalanches.