U.S. Ski Team officials say a 20-year-old member of their development team who grew up in Franconia, New Hampshire, and trained in Vermont was among two skiers killed in an Avalanche in Austria.
Ronnie Berlack and 19-year-old Bryce Astle, of Utah, were killed Monday as they trained for the upcoming opening of the World Cup near Rettenbach glacier.
U.S. Alpine director Patrick Riml said the team "is in shock."
Berlack and Astle were part of a group of six skiers who were descending from the 3,056-meter Gaislachkogel when they left the prepared slope and apparently set off the avalanche. The other four escaped unhurt.
Officials in the region say an avalanche alert had been declared for the area after days of heavy snowfall and mild temperatures.
Berlack was a longtime member of the Franconia Ski Club who recently trained at Vermont's Burke Mountain Academy.
"This community-- we're devastated," said Burke Mountain Academy's headmaster, Kirk Dwyer.
Dwyer told New England Cable News that Berlack had visited the school just last week. Students, faculty, and staff all had high hopes for Berlack, who was thriving on the slopes again after a recent knee injury.
"He was just going to keep working and he was going to accomplish whatever he set his mind to," Dwyer said.
"He wasn't scared of failure," Burke men's ski coach Kraig Sourbeer said of Ronnie Berlack, whom he coached for two years.
Sourbeer told NECN Berlack had the potential to represent New England on the podiums of World Cup races or at the Winter Olympic Games. Sourbeer said Berlack's style was unorthodox but fast, due to a knack of being able to find clean lines to carve for speed.
"I'm sad for his family, of course, mainly; his sister, and mother, and father, and all his buddies, too, who were there at the time it all happened," Sourbeer said. "And I feel Ronnie's spirit already inside of me."
Rich Smith, club program director, had known Berlack since he was 7 and said he was a "great guy" from an "outstanding family."
Berlack's father, Steve, coached at Burke. His mother, Cindy, was a ski coach, too.
In a statement, Congresswoman Annie Kuster said:
"I'm deeply saddened to hear of the tragic avalanche in Austria, which took the lives of two U.S. Ski Team members, including New Hampshire's own Ronnie Berlack and Utah's Bryce Astle. My thoughts and prayers go out to their families during this very difficult time."