Soldiers from the Vermont Army National Guard and attached units are undergoing annual training at Fort Drum, New York, in anticipation of a potential large-scale deployment in 2019.

Five soldiers were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after being swept at least 300 meters in an avalanche in Smugglers Notch, a spokesman for the Vermont National Guard said. 

A sixth soldier involved in the incident returned to duty Wednesday afternoon.

The soldiers were training in advanced mountaineering in Easy Gully when an avalanche occurred around 1 p.m., Staff Sgt. Nathan Rivard said. 

All injured were conscious and alert after the avalanche, Rivard said.

More: Vermont snowstorm: Crashes reported as winter wallop disrupts schools, travel

Several small avalanches had been reported in the region, according to National Weather Service. 

“Recent heavy snowfall combined with previous warm-ups have created the potential for avalanches in the exposed back country of the Green Mountains in Vermont and the Adirondacks in northern New York,” the National Weather Service warned. 

Aaron Rice, a Vermont-based skier, posted on social media earlier this week that he and his companions had triggered a 1,300 foot slide in the Smugglers Notch backcountry that came close to hitting Vermont 108.

Neil Van Dyke, the search and rescue coordinator for Vermont State Police, said rescue groups urged people heading to the backcountry to use caution and said search and rescue groups have received dozens of calls for assistance this week.

“Incidents at Bolton Valley and Killington over the last week alone have resulted in over 30 skiers and snowboarders requiring rescue,” he said.

The training was being conducted by the Army Mountain Warfare School, a Jericho-based U.S. Army school that educates military personnel in navigating and fighting in rough terrain.

The school is staffed by Vermont National Guard members, but trains soldiers from all over the country, Rivard said. 

Soldiers learn climbing, knot-tying and winter survival, among other mountain skills. 

Smugglers’ Notch Ski Resort posted on Facebook Wednesday morning that it had received 23 inches of snow in 24 hours—and that the snow was still falling. 

Avalanches have led to tragedy in the Vermont mountains before. In 2005, extreme skier Alec Stall died while filming a ski movie in Smugglers’ Notch after an avalanche swept him off a cliff. 

More: Vermont’s coolest commute goes to the guy who skis the Notch to work

Contact Jess Aloe at 802-660-1874 or Follow her on Twitter @jess_aloe 


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