Two US skiers killed in Tyrol avalanche
Two American skiers were killed in an avalanche in Sölden, Tyrol on Monday morning. They were junior members of the US ski team: Bryce Astle (19) from Salt Lake City and Ronald Berlack (20) from Franconia, New Hampshire.
More than 60 people from search and rescue teams were involved in the search. A spokesman for the mountain rescue team told AFP that the pair were young men with US passports, who are now known to be connected with the US alpine ski team, part of which is currently training in the Sölden region.
According to the Austrian broadcaster ORF the skiers were part of a group of six Americans who left a patrolled ski piste in Gaislachkogel and skied off piste towards Rettenbachtal. It’s believed that they triggered an avalanche and two of them were buried under the snow.
Ronnie Berlack (20). Photo: US Ski Team
The pair didn’t have any beacons with them, which meant the rescue team were reliant on probes to try and locate them. They were eventually found buried under three to four metres of snow. Medics tried to resuscitate them but it was too late.
The accident occurred near to the Rettenbachbrücke, which is part of the Ötztal Glacier road. On Monday the avalanche forecast for Tyrol was at level 3, signifying “considerable” danger.
Skiers and snowboarders are advised to check local avalanche forecasts, but also to pay attention to recent weather and avoid avalanche terrain within 24 hours of a storm that brings 30 centimetres or more of fresh snow, which is when slides are most common.
If you do venture into avalanche terrain carry a beacon, probe, and shovel and know how to use them. Wearing a helmet can also help prevent injury once an avalanche occurs.
Wearable avalanche airbag systems are designed to keep people on top of a slide rather than buried in it which increases the odds of survival significantly.