Six soldiers injured in Smugglers Notch avalanche: What we know now

Six soldiers were injured Wednesday afternoon after being caught in an avalanche in Smugglers Notch, a spokesman for the Vermont National Guard said.

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

Five of the six soldiers were transported to the University of Vermont Medical Center, while the sixth returned to duty, the Guard said in a statement around 4:30 p.m.

None of the five injured soldiers appear to have life-threatening injuries.

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 Tuesday 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.

The soldiers have been located, Rivard said. He said he was unable to say at this time how serious the injuries are. Two Cambridge rescue units have been dispatched to the scene.

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.

The Guard is planning to provide more information later Wednesday, Rivard said.