Austrian Avalanche Claims Lives of Two U.S. Skiers

(ATR)  "It's our worst nightmare come true," says U.S. men's ski team coach Sasha Rearick:

SOELDEN, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 26: (FRANCE OUT) Alexis Pinturault of France takes 3rd place during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Giant Slalom on October 26, 2014 in Soelden, Austria. (Photo by Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)
SOELDEN, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 26: (FRANCE OUT) Alexis Pinturault of France takes 3rd place during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Men's Giant Slalom on October 26, 2014 in Soelden, Austria. (Photo by Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

(ATR) Two members of the U.S. ski team’s developmental program were killed in an avalanche in Austria on Monday.

Ronnie Berlack, 20, of New Hampshire and Bryce Astle, 19, of Utah were part of a group of six skiers at the Austrian resort of Soelden. The other four athletes were able to ski their way out of harm’s way.

"It's our worst nightmare come true," veteran U.S. men's ski team head coach Sasha Rearick told USA Today. "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."

The group was near the Rettenbach glacier preparing for the start of the World Cup season. It was by leaving the prepared slope that the group triggered the avalanche, according to Yahoo Sports.

An avalanche alert was already in effect due to mild temperatures and heavy snowfall.

"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."

Both skiers were part of the 10-member developmental squad from which the U.S. will pull for future World Cup and Olympic skiing teams.

Rearick said the U.S. World Cup skiers will compete as scheduled in the men’s World Cup slalom Tuesday in Zagreb, Croatia.

Written by Nick Devlin

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