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Avalanche Prevention Tools Go To War

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The U.S. military is demanding the return of five howitzers that two Sierra Nevada ski resorts use to prevent avalanches, saying it needs the guns for the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain received the artillery pieces on loan from the Army and began using them last year to fire rounds into mountainsides and knock snow loose. But the ski resorts received word earlier this month that the Army´s Tank Automotive and Armaments Command at the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois needs the howitzers back immediately.

Don Bowen is the Army command´s team leader in charge of the howitzers at Rock Island. He told The Associated Press that he needs the weapons back in the troops´ hands within 60 to 90 days.

The ski resorts say they will comply. They say the cannons are the most effective tools they´ve ever had to control avalanches. But in the words of Alpine Meadows´ Larry Heywood, “Given it´s a war effort, their needs are greater than ours.”