How We Got Started
The Bryce and Ronnie Athlete Snow Safety Foundation (BRASS) was born out of the tragic avalanche deaths of U.S. Ski Team athletes Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle to create a legacy of changes in the culture of avalanche safety. Its mission is to lobby for the evolution of snow safety systems and to advocate for greater penetration of avalanche education. It works closely with avalanche industry organizations in the USA and around the world. The BRASS Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit relying entirely on donations from passionate private and commercial supporters.
The avalanche deaths of Ronnie Berlack and Bryce Astle ignited a passion in their families, their friends and the greater competitive ski and snowboard community that all skiers and snowboarders should be safe from harm. In their memory, BRASS is dedicated to that vision.
The vision of the BRASS Foundation is that skiers and snowboarders are safe from harm.
The BRASS mission is to create and advocate for snow safety education and best practices for snow sports athletes and recreational participants to further their physical safety and psychological well-being.
Competitive Ski and Snowboard
The objective of BRASS is to keep athletes free from physical harm by advocating for snow safety education and protocols through U.S. Ski & Snowboard, member clubs and the International Ski Federation.
Recreational Skiers and Snowboarders
The objective of BRASS is to grow awareness of avalanche safety on a national scale by utilizing its influence to create a broader safety message targeting recreational skiers.
Avalanche Safety Standards
The objective of BRASS is to minimize avalanche risks worldwide through engagement with both the resort and snow safety community leading to increased standards to communicate the risks to skiers and snowboarders.
Bryce Astle grew up in the mountains of Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon. He attended grade school at Alta and his after-school activities consisted of…… skiing. Bryce loved every part of skiing: bumps, powder, screaming runs down West Rustler and despite parental vetoes; cliffs, chutes, and flips. Bryce and Chris wanted to try racing like their older brother, Jason. Bryce embraced a new found passion: gates. Snowbird took Bryce’s free skiing touch and molded him into a blossoming racer. At 14 years old he would watch World Cup races over and over again, analyzing each racer. One day he turned to his dad and said, “I can ski with these guys”. From then on, his focus was clear. In his mind it was simple, it was just a matter of putting together the building blocks to reach his goal of being one of the top five racers in the world.
Bryce’s defining personality characteristic was kindness.He made everyone feel like they were his best friend. The incalculable loss is not just to sports, or his family, or his friends. What we can’t imagine is the good which could have been accomplished if everyone to whom Bryce would have shown a kind gesture would have passed it on.
As Bryce always said: “GOOD VIBES ONLY”
At the time of Bryce’s death, he was the top junior technical skier in North America and the reigning U.S. junior giant slalom champion.
Bryce would have likely been a medal contender in four events in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
Ronald Grover Berlack was born on April 21, 1994 in Winchester, Mass. He was a warm, kind, and caring young man, in addition to being an amazing athlete. We all miss him terribly!
At the age of two (in 1996), Ronnie and his family embarked on a 18-month sailing trip from America to the British Islands, Norway, and Sweden. That winter, they lived near Chamonix, France where Ronnie skied almost every day and attended French day care.
By the time Ronnie was three, he had sailed in the North Atlantic, the North Sea, Norwegian Sea, Barents Sea, and the whole Norwegian coast.
This long trip taught him two important lessons: to make friends fast when you meet kids near your age; and to be able to sleep anywhere. Both of these skills served him well in the ski racing world.
At the age of five, Ronnie moved with his family from Sudbury, Mass., to Franconia, NH. There he ski raced with the Franconia Ski Club. As a 10-year-old, he started in Jr. Race Program at Burke Mountain, VT. It was a smooth transition for him to attend Burke Mountain Academy for high school, where his dad, Steve, was (and still is) an alpine ski coach.
He graduated from Burke Mountain Academy in 2012, then was named to the U.S. Ski Team Development squad in the spring of 2013, and again in 2014.
In addition to his skiing accomplishments, Ronnie was an exceptional soccer goalie, good tennis player, a ferocious road and mountain biker, and a solid offshore sailor.
Ronnie knew he was fortunate to have many excellent coaches, teachers, and other role models who shaped his life and helped him reach his goals.
Ronnie was extraordinary. He cherished his extended ski racing family! He will long be remembered for his determination and passion for life. His grave marker says:
Ronnie — Loving Son, Brother, Teammate, and Friend