Women’s skiing wouldn’t be where it is today without Sarah Burke. That’s not an overstatement. Nearly every other woman we talked to, especially slopestyle and halfpipe athletes, mentioned Sarah when they talked about inspiration, calling her a groundbreaker and a role model. She spent years as one of the only women competing against guys, and she was pivotal in upping the number of women’s events and competitions. And she’s still at it.
That’s not to say that being the pioneer of women’s park skiing is easy. After breaking her back at the 2009 X Games she struggled to compete at the level she had been before.
But at this year’s Winter X Games, two weeks after being cleared to ski due to a shoulder injury, she came back to win Superpipe—her forth X Games pipe gold—with a cork 9 and back-to-back flairs. She is unequivocally at the top of the game, and gearing up for even bigger things.
This year, she’s only making appearances at the X Games and FIS World Championships. “After they are over I want to film and shoot,” she says. “I have never gotten a film segment that I have been really pumped about and I figure this is the year to do it. So I am going to try my best to put together something that I am truly proud of.”
Sarah says she’s giving herself a bit of a break because she knows the next few years are going to be big. Skiing halfpipe was just included in the 2014 Olympics and she and the rest of the Canadian Halfpipe Team already have their eyes on Sochi.
“That’s why I am taking this year to film and play in the pow,” she says. “I know the next couple years after that it’s going to be pretty full on.”
Just before 2:00 PM today, the first heartbreaking reports shot across the social media realm, compounded, no doubt, by the fact that much of the skiing community is currently in Salt Lake City for the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show. Sarah Burke died this morning from the injuries she sustained in a halfpipe training accident on January 10 at Park City Mountain Resort.
All of us at Skiing Magazine are stunned and deeply saddened by the passing of this freeskiing icon and Olympic hopeful. Her imprint on the sport won’t fade anytime soon. Our thoughts go out to Sarah’s family. A pioneer of women’s freeskiing, Sarah inspired countless people both on and off the slopes and will no doubt continue to do so for years to come. #BeliveinSarah #WewillmissyouSarah #ThankyouSarah