U.S. Ski Team Prospects Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle killed in Austrian Avalanche

U.S. Ski Team development athletes Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle died in an avalanche near their European training base of Soelden in the Austrian Alps on Monday. Berlack, 20, of Franconia, N.H., and Astle, 19, of Sandy, Utah, were freeskiing off piste with four others when the accident occurred.

Bryce Astle. [Photo] Courtesy U.S. Ski Team

Bryce Astle. [Photo] Courtesy U.S. Ski Team

The group was descending the north side of 3,058-meter Gaislachkogl, the highest cable-car-accessed peak in the region, when they triggered the avalanche near the Otztal Glacier Road, which is located at 2,830 meters. According to an avalanche analysis by Lawinenwarndienst Tirol—the regional avalanche warning service—the slab avalanche was 30cm deep, broke 20 meters across and ran 360 meters down a steep, northwest-facing slope. Berlack and Astle were buried three meters deep and, according to Austrian news outlet The Local, it took a search-and-rescue group of 60 to locate their bodies. They were reportedly not wearing beacons.

Ronnie Berlack. [Photo] Courtesy U.S. Ski Team

Ronnie Berlack. [Photo] Courtesy U.S. Ski Team

Area avalanche danger has been elevated since a storm beginning on Saturday, January 3 brought high winds and up to 30 cm of snow to parts of the Austrian Alps. Following the storm, avalanche danger at elevations above 2,200 meters was rated Level 3 (considerable) due to wind loading. “From region to region, the proneness to triggering even reaches danger level high,” the forecast read.

“Ronnie and Bryce were both outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport—both on the race course and skiing the mountain,” Tiger Shaw, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO, wrote on the U.S. Ski Team website. “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.”

“The ski community is small,” U.S. Ski Team athlete Mikaela Shiffrin wrote on her Facebook page, “and it is important that we stick together.”

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  1. U.S. Ski Team Avalanche
    For clarification purposes, the boys were in the middle of the resort,, not “somewhere near the resort Of Soelden”. They had no idea that skiing off a groomed run in the middle of the resort, that you are to consider nothing mitigated for avalanches. They also did not know an avalanche report existed and could not read the signs that were in German only.
    Thank you to SOLDEN for making changes and honoring and remembering our boys.

    http://Www.Avalanches.org for European reports.

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