Avalanche kills two young US ski team hopefuls training in Austrian Alps

They were two 'outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport'

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An avalanche killed two young American ski racers in the Austrian Alps on Monday.

Ronnie Berlack, 20, and Bryce Astle, 19, were in the USA development-level team preparing to race at the Skiing World Cup.

The US Ski and Snowboard Association (USSA) said the pair had been caught by the avalanche while free-skiing near their training base.

Tiger Shaw, president of the USSA, said: "Ronnie and Bryce were both outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport - both on the race course and skiing the mountain.

"Both of them loved what they did and conveyed that to those around them."

Mr Berlack had been on the US development team since 2013 following impressive results in the Alpine Championships that year.  Mr Astle had been invited to train with it this season following two top-10 NorAm Cup races last month in Canada.

The skiers are thought to have triggered the avalanche as they descended a mountain near the Rettenbach glacier, where the 2015 Alpine Skiing World Cup will open later this year.

The Austrian broadcaster ORF said neither man was wearing avalanche emergency gear. Four other US team members skiing with them survived.

The danger level on the mountain at the time was rated three out of of five: a "considerable" risk of avalanche, according to the Austrian news agency APA.

Additional reporting by Reuters