VIENNA - Two promising junior members of the US ski team were killed on Monday in an avalanche while skiing in the western Austrian resort of Soelden, the team said on Monday.
The two - Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, - "were among a group of six athletes free-skiing at the Austrian resort," the US ski team said in a statement.
"The other four skied out of the slide.
"Ronnie and Bryce were both outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport - both on the race course and skiing the mountain," the statement quoted US Ski and Snowboard Association head and CEO Tiger Shaw as saying.
"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." Four-time overall World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn tweeted her condolences alongside pictures of the young skiers.
"An avalanche took their lives today. It is a tragic loss," Vonn wrote. "My prayers go out to them and their families." The International Ski Federation (FIS), also offered condolences on the social media site "to the Berlack and Sstle families, the US Ski Team and all the friends of the young athletes." Berlack grew up racing in New Hampshire and had been a student-athlete at Vermont's Burke Mountain Academy. He was named to the US ski team's development team following two top-20s at the 2013 US Alpine Championships and a spring tryout camp.
Astle was invited to train with the development team trip this season and had posted strong early season results.
A level-three avalanche risk warning - out of five - had been declared in the area after warmer temperatures followed heavy snowfall in recent days.
Soelden, a popular ski resort in Austria's Tyrol region, is the European base for the US alpine ski team.