I'm mesmerized. It's an early December night and I'm cozied up inside a cabin atop Snoqualmie Pass switching my anxious attention between the wet, fat snowflakes submerging the deck outside and Rachael Burks stacking and taping 14 beers together end to end. Her male counterparts in this drinking game called "Wizard Sticks" are lagging nearly a half case behind in count. That was my first encounter with Rachael, and much of what I've read about her in ski magazines has profiled her ability to out 'man' the men in skiing, but what I've learned about her, from that day five years ago until now, is that that feat was merely an effect of Rachael being an intensely passionate woman, incredibly loyal friend and ultimately a person ready for any challenge that captivates her interest.
Rachael’s passion for skiing is so grand it goes beyond self-satisfaction. Although her guttural laugh and wide smile that erupts at the bottom of any cliff or line will tell you how skiing creates so much happiness for her, she hopes to radiate that stoke to future generations of females. If the future turns out the way she envisions, the world’s socks will be blown off by the progression of women skiers. Rachael’s compassion for friends has led her on global navigations for short visits and causes her to weep at the mere notion that one of her friends might have a traumatic injury. When it comes to challenges Rachael doesn’t see barriers but rather a way to better herself. Once, she decided it would be a formidable test to work on a vineyard in France and learn a language with which she was completely unfamiliar. Of course she came out triumphant, and of course it was with an ear to ear grin. —Elyse Saugstad