U.S. Ski Team: Avalanche claims lives of two promising young ski racers

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Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle

(CNN) — An avalanche in Austria claimed the lives of two promising young ski racers Monday, the U.S. Ski Team said.

Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, were among a group of six athletes freeskiing at an Austrian resort. The four others managed to ski out of the slide, the team said on its website.

“Ronnie and Bryce were both outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport,” U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw said in a statement. “Both of them loved what they did and conveyed that to those around them.”

Berlack, from Franconia, New Hampshire, was named to the U.S. Ski Team’s Development Team after a spring 2013 tryout camp. He finished 11th in downhill and 17th in super G at the 2013 U.S. Alpine Championships in Squaw Valley, California.

Berlack had been a student at Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy, where he trained as recently as last week.

“Ronnie has been a vital part of BMA since he was a young boy,” headmaster Kirk Dwyer said in a statement. “He had a huge spirit. There is no one who better represents our core values than Ronnie. Our hearts go out to his parents Steve and Cindy, and his sister Carolyn.”

Dwyer said that Berlack’s father is a coach at BMA and that Berlack enrolled at the school when he was 11. The headmaster coached Berlack when he was 13 and 14 years old.

He visited the Berlack home Monday.

“It’s a devastating loss … but the family has remarkable perspective. Ronnie was doing what he loved to do. He was chasing his dreams,” Dwyer told CNN.

Astle, from Sandy, Utah, had been invited to train with the development team. He was 13th in giant slalom at the U.S. Alpine Championships last March, ending as the top junior.

Messages are being left at the team’s official Facebook page.

The avalanche occurred at around 2,800 meters (about 9,200 feet) in elevation. There was a level-three avalanche risk in the area (out of five) for places above 2,200 meters (7,200 feet).