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US Ski Team Members Killed in Austrian Avalanche

The U.S. Ski Team is mourning the loss of two promising development-level ski racers killed Monday in an avalanche in Soelden, Austria: Ronnie Berlack, 20 and Bryce Astle, 19. (USSA handout photo)

The U.S. Ski Team is in shock after an avalanche in the Austrian Alps took the lives of two members of the team's developmental program.

Monday's incident took place near the Rettenbach glacier in the mountains at the western Austrian resort of Soelden, which is the venue for the annual season-opening World Cup races.

Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, were caught by the avalanche while free-skiing in Soelden, in the Tyrol region, U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) said in a statement. Four other team members skiing with them survived.

No coaches were with them at the time. The Austrian broadcaster ORF said neither man was wearing avalanche emergency gear.

An avalanche alert had been in effect for the area after days of heavy snowfall and mild temperatures.

Berlack, from Franconia, New Hampshire, had been on the U.S. development team since 2013 and Astle, from Sandy, Utah, had been invited to train with it this season.

"Ronnie and Bryce were both outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport - both on the race course and skiing the mountain," USSA President Tiger Shaw said in a statement. "Both of them loved what they did and conveyed that to those around them."

U.S. alpine ski director Patrick Riml says senior team members who decide to compete in World Cup races Tuesday in Zagreb, Croatia plan to wear mourning bands.

Some information in this report provided by Reuters.