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2 Promising U.S. Skiers Killed In Alps Avalanche


Two promising, young American skiers were killed in an avalanche yesterday in the Austrian Alps, where they were training with the U.S. ski team. Four other team members skiing with them survived. Twenty-year-old Ronnie Berlack of Franconia, New Hampshire, had been named to the development team. Nineteen-year-old Bryce Astle of Sandy, Utah, was still in the running. On the phone from Austria is Sasha Rearick, head coach of the U.S. ski team. Thank you very much for talking to us this morning. We're very sorry for your loss.

SASHA REARICK: Thank you. Thank you.

WERTHEIMER: Could you talk for a moment about Ronnie and Bryce? These were two very young men. I don't know how well you knew them by this time.

REARICK: Yeah. I mean, Bryce was - always a smile on his face and absolutely loved everything he was doing at any moment. And Ronnie Berlack was an unbelievably hard worker who loved ski racing, loved his teammates. He was a passionate person for his teammates. And we have a very tight family, and Ronnie was a big glue to that family.

WERTHEIMER: I assume this must be very tough for the rest of the kids on the team.

REARICK: Yeah. I arrived here in Solden from Zagreb at the World Cup last night. And I was absolutely astounded at how strong this group is together. Individually, each member is strong and holding together, supporting each other. But the strength here uplifted me - unbelievable last night after an eight-hour drive. I cannot be so impressed with how strong they are together. But, for sure, we are, you know, going through some cycles right now this morning. And it's going to be some tough times, but we will get through it.

WERTHEIMER: Could you tell us how this happened? These two young men were off the prepared trails with avalanche warnings already issued?

REARICK: Skiing here in Europe, in Solden it's a big, big mountain. There's a tremendous amount of terrain. They were - took a lift up and skied down like many tourist skiers do in this area. Unfortunately, a bad accident occurred and their - fortunately we have four athletes who survived and were able to help in the process of trying to dig Ronnie and Bryce out. And they did everything they could possible.

WERTHEIMER: What about those four guys? Where do they go next? Does this change your decisions about competitions in the near future?

REARICK: I mean, right now we're going to meet with each athlete to figure out what's the best plan for them to move forward and to move forward with the rest of their lives. And this group of guys that are here, their next competition would be in Wengen - Europa cup this come coming week. And we'll see how - who goes there and who does not.

WERTHEIMER: Sasha Rearick is head coach of the U.S. ski team which is mourning the deaths of Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle, two promising, young skiers who were killed in an avalanche yesterday. He joined us from Austria. Mr. Rearick, thank you very much.

REARICK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.