Soldiers in Vermont Mountain Warfare School Injured in Avalanche

Six soldiers were swept 300 meters down a mountain during an avalanche at Smugglers Notch, the site of the Vermont National Guard’s Mountain Warfare School. Five were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

The sixth soldier in the incident received “mild injuries” and returned to duty according to Vermont National Guard spokesman, Staff Sergeant Nathan Rivard.

The soldiers were training in advanced mountaineering in Easy Gully when an avalanche occurred around 1 p.m., Rivard said. Part of that training includes what to do if caught in an avalanche.

All injured were conscious and alert after the avalanche, Rivard said, and were swept, but not buried.

The soldiers were located within ten minutes and moved off the mountain within an hour and forty minutes.

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.

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 ski resort at Smuggler’s Notch reported over 23 inches of snow in a 24-hour period earlier this week. The mountain warfare school is run by the Vermont Guard but trains soldiers, both active and reserve from all over the country.

The soldiers receive training in climbing, knot-tying and winter survival, among other mountain skills.

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