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U.S. Ski Team member from Sandy killed in Austria avalanche

Posted at 9:59 PM, Jan 05, 2015

SANDY, Utah -- The U.S. Ski Team has confirmed one of its members, a teen from Sandy, has been killed in an avalanche.

The team lost two members Monday, Bryce Astle, 19, of Sandy and Ronnie Berlack, 20, of New Hampshire.

According to a spokesman for the U.S. Ski Team, Astle and Berlack were freeskiing with four teammates when the avalanche occurred in Soelden, Austria, where the team trains.

“These skiers went up a ski lift, came down a run, triggered the avalanche,” said Tom Kelly, communications director for the team.

While their teammates were able to ski out from the slide, Astle and Berlack were found buried in about 12 feet of snow.

“Not only were they great ski racers, but they were great people,” Kelly said. “They were great, young men.”

Astle grew up racing with the Snowbird Ski Team. During the U.S. Alpine Championships last March, he placed 13th in giant slalom.

Following such an impressive year, the U.S. Ski Team invited him to train with their development team in Austria. While he was not officially on the roster, Astle’s instructors in Utah expected it was only a matter of time before his name made the list.

“Bryce Astle, he was an incredible skier,” Steve Bounous, director of the Snowbird Sports Education Foundation.

As one of Astle’s coaches, Bounous watched the young skier grow to be a top competitor over the years.

“He had a blend of the mental, the physical, the technical abilities that you needed,” Bounous said. “He was doing what he loved. He loved to ski. He loved to compete.”

According to the Associated Press, officials in the region said an avalanche alert had been declared for the area after days of heavy snowfall.

However, it was not uncommon for many of the skiers training in the area to free ski during their time off.

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

In lieu of flowers, the Astle family has requested that donations be made to the Snowbird Sports Education Foundation, located at 3165 E. Millrock Drive, STE 190, Holladay, Ut.

Get the latest updates from the U.S. Ski Team at http://usskiteam.com/