Six years ago two aspiring young ski racers were killed in an avalanche during a training camp in Austria. To both preserve their memory and to raise awareness of avalanche safety, January 5 has been declared Bryce & Ronnie Avalanche Safety Day. The Bryce and Ronnie Athlete Snow Safety Foundation (BRASS Avalanche) will use the day each year to raise awareness of the need for avalanche education and to continue its advocacy for avalanche safety protocols.

Highlighting the debut on Tuesday, January 5, 2021, the sixth anniversary of the accident, BRASS Avalanche will play host to a free online screening of Off Piste: Tragedy in the Alps. The hour long An Evening with Off Piste will include appearances by noted athletes and avalanche safety experts including Olympic champion Ted Ligety.

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Bryce Astle, a 19-year old from Salt Lake City, and Ronnie Berlack, then 20 and from Franconia, N.H., were killed in Sölden, Austria in 2015. When heavy snow canceled race training, they ventured off groomed ski trails with teammates from the U.S. Ski Team. They group had unknowingly wandered into avalanche terrain and were swept away in a giant slide.

“This was a group of very skilled skiers who simply did not know the danger,” said Steve Berlack, father of Ronnie and chairman of BRASS Avalanche. “They didn’t know that in Europe when you leave the groomed slopes of a ski resort you are off piste.”

Since its inception in 2016,  BRASS Avalanche has been at the forefront of avalanche education with hundreds of competition clubs across America. It has trained thousands through its free BRASS 101 introductory education program. BRASS scholarships have provided national team athletes and coaches certified on-snow safety training. Thanks to BRASS’ efforts, every member of U.S. Ski & Snowboard (18 and older) must take an online introductory safety training course. In addition, coaches certification programs now include avalanche safety training.

Most notably, the 2018 production of Off Piste has brought the message of safety to over a million viewers worldwide. Produced by Trent Meisenheimer and Arius Sorbonne of the Utah Avalanche Center, the 13-minute film features a poignant re-creation of the accident along with hard-hitting comments from Olympic champions Ted Ligety, Mikaela Shiffrin and Bode Miller. An independent accident review produced by longtime Utah Avalanche Center director Bruce Tremper detailed causes of the accident and resultant learnings.

Tremper, Meisenheimer and Ligety will be among the panelists on January 5 (8-9 p.m. EST) for An Evening with Off PisteRegistration for the free event is now available.

BRASS Avalanche plans to use the annual Bryce & Ronnie Avalanche Safety Day as a time to get skiers and snowboarders to think about avalanche safety. A growing number of educational programs are available publicly. BRASS Avalanche has produced a series of free BRASS 101 webinars this year. One of the best introductory resources is Know Before You Go, an on-demand online program that provides basic awareness including five important principles to know before venturing onto ungroomed runs.

“As skiers, we love our sport and all look forward to dropping into deep powder,” said Berlack. “But it’s vital to know the safety protocols, have the proper gear and to be very purposeful every time we ski or ride outside groomed terrain.”

Information on BRASS Avalanche is available on its website at www.brassavalanche.org, including registration for the January 5 An Evening with Off Piste.

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