Ronnie Berlack, Bryce Astle, Two U.S. Ski Team Prospects, Dead In Avalanche [Breaking]

Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, were two young Olympic hopefuls, but on Monday, those hopes ended in tragedy.

The pair were skiing near their European training base in the Austrian Alps when an avalanche struck. The U.S. Olympic ski team confirmed through Fox News and other media outlets that the two had lost their lives around the Rettenbach glacier near Soelden, the venue for the annual season-opening World Cup races.

Berlack was from New Hampshire, Astle from Utah.

The Associated Press notes that the pair were “part of a group of six skiers who were descending from the 3,056-meter Gaislachkogel when they left the prepared slope and apparently set off the avalanche.”

The other four prospects were able to escape unharmed.

“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 prepared 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.”

Ronnie Berlack was a student-athlete at Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy. He was named to the development team for potential World Cup racers, after finishing in the top 20 twice at the 2013 U.S. national championships and a spring tryout camp.

Bryce Astle received an invitation to train with the development team this season, after showing promising results at the beginning of the season. These included two top-10 results at NorAm Cup races last month in Canada, the AP notes.

The U.S. ski team is said to be “in shock” over the deaths.

“We are all very close,” said Alpine director Patrick Riml, who was born in Austria and grew up in Soelden. “We train a lot in Park City. We’ll see how they handle the whole thing and how they react.”

Riml added that the incident was “a shock for everybody,” and that Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle were “great boys, great athletes, good skiers.”

“They were fun to have around. We are all in shock, still. It’s very tragic,” he said.

The Inquisitr would like to express its condolences to the families of Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle as well.

[Image via ShutterStock]