- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

FRANCONIA, N.H. (AP) - A rising U.S. Ski Team prospect who grew up in Franconia, New Hampshire, and trained in Vermont was among two skiers killed Monday in an avalanche in Austria, the team said.

Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, of Utah, were killed as they trained near Soelden for the opening of the World Cup. They were descending a glacier with six skiers when, ski team officials said, they left the prepared slope and apparently set off the avalanche. The other four escaped unhurt. Officials in the Tyrolean region say an avalanche alert had been declared for the area after days of heavy snowfall and mild temperatures.

Berlack was a member of the Franconia Ski Club who recently trained at Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy. He had earned a spot on the U.S. Ski Team’s Development Team in 2013 and finished 11th in downhill and 17th in super-G at the U.S. Alpine Championships that year in Squaw Valley.

Berlack grew up in Franconia, the small town in the White Mountains that also produced U.S., world and Olympic champion Bode Miller. Rich Smith, program director at the Franconia Ski Club, said he had known Berlack since he was 7 and traveling the eastern region with the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

“There’s not enough words to say what a great guy Ronnie Berlack was and always will be,” Smith said, his voice faltering.

Paige Roberts said she had known Berlack since they were toddlers who started skiing on New Hampshire’s Cannon Mountain. She recalled him as a hilarious, big-hearted friend who found joy in everything.

“He was just so humble and down to earth about his ski racing career,” she said. “He was just so in love with the sport that he thought he was just lucky to compete at the level he was competing at.”

Roberts, who coaches skiing at the mountain, said Berlack was driven to succeed but always kept things in perspective.

“It was, ‘I want to do this so bad and I’m going to work so hard until I get it.’ And he did,” she said. “I’m just so heartbroken because he had so much more to do.”

In a statement, Burke Mountain Academy said it was devastated by Berlack’s death. His father, Steve Berlack, is a coach at the academy. His mother, Cindy, is also a ski coach.

“Only last week Ronnie was here at BMA training with us,” the school said. “Ronnie was someone we all loved and deeply respected. He had a huge spirit. There is no one who better represents our core values than Ronnie. Our hearts go out to his parents Steve and Cindy, and his sister Carolyn.”

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide