U.S. Ski Team Hopefuls Killed in Alps Avalanche

Bruce Astle and Ronnie Berlack US Ski Team

Two young men who died in an avalanche in the Austrian Alps were hoping to make the U.S. Olympic Ski Team.

Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, both died in an avalanche near the Rettenbach glacier in the mountains over Soelden, the site of the annual season-opening World Cup races.

“Ronnie and Bryce were both outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport–both on the race course and skiing the mountain,” U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association president and CEO Tiger Shaw said in a statement. “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.”

“There’s not enough words to say what a great guy Ronnie Berlack was and always will be,” said Rich Smith, program director at the Franconia Ski Club, Berlack’s home ski club.

Many thought Berlack was among the world’s best up and coming skiers. On the U.S. Ski Team website, Berlack was heralded as a great future star and described as “perhaps the next generation of great athletes to come out of the Granite State (think Bode Miller and Leanne Smith).”

According to ABC News, Berlack “placed 11th in downhill and 17th in Super G at the 2013 Nature Valley U.S. Alpine Championships in Squaw Valley and was in the top 25 in seven NorAm races that same season. He came back to racing last summer, competing in South American Cup races in Chile, after being sidelined with a torn MCL he sustained during giant slalom training in Europe in January 2014.”

Astle was an invitee to the U.S. Development Ski Team after showing promise in the early season. On the crowd funding page meant to help him raise the $22,000 he needed to join the team on the road, Astle wrote, “I’m honored to be an invitee and hope to seize the opportunity.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com