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6 US soldiers in mountain warfare training hit by avalanche

'Across a field towards Mount Mansfield, Stowe Vermont'

CAMBRIDGE, Vt. — Six United States Army soldiers taking part in a mountain warfare training exercise at Vermont’s tallest peak were hit by an avalanche and injured, requiring emergency evacuation Wednesday afternoon.

Rescue crews worked to rescue the six soldiers who were training at Smugglers Notch, a narrow pass at the northern edge of Mount Mansfield. The base of the notch is surrounded by steep cliffs on both sides.

Five of the soldiers were taken to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. Their conditions were unknown Wednesday afternoon. The sixth soldier returned to duty.

There is no word on what triggered the avalanche that hit about 1 p.m. The soldiers were later brought down the mountain to waiting ambulances. A photo posted by WCAX-TV shows one soldier on a stretcher.

Smugglers Notch separates Stowe from Cambridge. The Stowe ski resort is on one side of the notch and Smugglers’ Notch ski resort is on the other.

Heavy snow has fallen in the area in recent weeks.

The Vermont Department of Public Safety said the recent storms have created “extremely unstable conditions in steep terrain.”

The U.S. Army’s Mountain Warfare school is run by the Vermont National Guard. The Army website says the school provides tactical and technical training for mountain warfare and cold weather operations.

It’s unclear what the soldiers were doing when the avalanche hit. But soldiers who take the winter training course, based at the Ethan Allen Training Center in Jericho, will practice ice climbing in the notch as well as other cold-weather activities.