Two U.S. Ski Team Prospects Killed by Avalanche In Austria

Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle (TODAY)
Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle (TODAY)

Steve Berlack built a life around snow and skiing. He lived in Franconia, N.H. He taught at an exclusive ski academy – Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont.

His son, Ronnie, rose up the ski racing ranks, graduated from Burke, had recently made the U.S. “D” team and was still hoping to make it to the World Cup level within a few years.

But snow and skiing took Ronnie’s life Monday.

Ronnie Berlack, 20, and another U.S. ski team developmental athlete, Bryce Astle, 19, of Sandy, Utah, were killed in an avalanche in Soelden, Austria.

Berlack and Astle were among six athletes who were skiing off trail at an area that is the U.S. ski team’s European training base. When the avalanche occurred, Berlack and Astle were buried. The other four were able to ski out.

“It’s our worst nightmare come true,” U.S. men’s ski team head coach Sasha Rearick told USA TODAY Sports. “We’ve never had a death of one of our athletes from an avalanche.

“Unfortunately, there were no coaches with them at that time. There was a call, and people tried to dig them out.”

Berlack had been named to the U.S. “D” team this winter. He posted two top-20 results at the 2013 U.S. Alpine Championships. He was a forerunner at the men’s World Cup races in Beaver Creek, Colo., last month.

His father took some solace Monday in that his son died doing what he loved.

“I’m not bitter,” Steve Berlack told USA TODAY Sports. “We’re dealing with it. I’m still sort of numb. I’m sure it will sink in for real later.

“They were skiing off-piste (beyond trail markers), and that’s always dangerous,” Steve Berlack said. “It’s just a tragic accident. Had they not been skiing there, they wouldn’t have died. But that’s who they were. They were risk takers. Two of them were buried. The other four were able to ski out. It’s another measure of fate.”

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David Leon Moore

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