Two development-level U.S. ski racers were killed Monday in an avalanche in Soelden, Austria.
Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, were killed while freeskiing at the Austrian resort near the team's European training base in the Austrian Alps. Soelden is the venue for the annual season-opening World Cup races.
The group was descending from the 3,056-meter Gaislachkogel when the skiers left the prepared slope, apparently setting off the avalanche. Four other athletes were able to ski out of the slide reportedly unhurt.
"Ronnie and Bryce were both outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport – both on the race course and skiing the mountain," said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association president and CEO Tiger Shaw. "Our hearts go out to the Berlack and Astle families, as well as to their extended sport family. Both of them loved what they did and conveyed that to those around them."
Berlack grew up skiing in New Hampshire and was a student-athlete at Vermont's Burke Mountain Academy. After a pair of top-20 finishes at the 2013 U.S. Alpine Championships and a spring tryout camp, he was named to the U.S. Ski Team's Development Team.
Astle, from Sandy, Utah, was invited to train with the development team after strong early-season results, including a pair of top-10 NorAm Cup races last month in Canada.
Both skiers were part of a 10-person group on the development team who were preparing to race on the top-level World Cup after gaining experience in the Europa Cup.
- Mike Fiammetta