By RYAN GORMAN
Two U.S. Ski Team prospects died Monday in an avalanche.
Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, died while training in Soelden, Austria ahead of the start of the first leg of the skiing World Cup, U.S. officials announced.
The development level skiers were among six caught in the avalanche, according to a statement on the ski team's website. The other four were able to ski out of the slide.
Berlack, from Franconia, New Hampshire, and Astle, from Sandy, Utah, were up-and-coming skiers that seemed destined for future Olympic competitions with the U.S. national team.
"Ronnie and Bryce were both outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport – both on the race course and skiing the mountain," said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw.
"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."
Berlack was named to the developmental team after notching two top-20 finishes at the 2013 U.S. Alpine Championships.
He grew up racing with the Franconia Ski Club in New Hampshire's White Mountains.
The U.S. Ski Team has been left "in shock," Alpine director Patrick Riml told the Associated Press. "We are all very close."
Astle earned two top-10 finishes at NorAm Cup races last month in Canada, earning him a spot on the training team.
"These two boys were among the other eight boys who are our future. We believed in these guys, that's why we selected them," Rimi added.
The U.S. ski team has made Soelden its training base since 2011.
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