With the cold air coming in and the snow beginning to fall, people are gearing up and taking to the mountains. Coupled with the opening of places like Mammoth this past weekend and many other mountains soon to follow, it is definitely a very exciting time of year, at least it is for the people like me who can’t wait to be riding down the slopes. Although I am super pumped to break out the skis again, I can’t help but think of skiing this winter and remember Sarah Burke.
For those of you who are not familiar with her, she was a truly inspiring woman that was a badass on a set of skis. Touted as one of the best and one of the toughest competitors, she has undoubtedly left her mark in skiing history, winning just about every major contest there is. Coupled with being crowned the first ever world champion of women’s halfpipe skiing at the 2005 FIS Freestyle World Championships, she also has the most gold medals of any Superpipe athlete both male and female at Winter X-games. Burke was also the first woman to land a 720, 900, 1080 and alley-oop flatspin 540 in competition. There was nothing better than to watch her stomp a third run in a competition or to see a video of her tearing it up in backcountry. She always brought it. Burke knew what it took to bring women’s freeskiiing to the forefront of the industry, and she made great strides in making that happen. She was a leader in the sport of freeskiing and truly one of the best freeskiiers to ever put on a pair of boots. And although I could probably go on and on about her dominance in the sport of women’s professional skiing, that is hardly what Sarah Burke was about.
Too often we hear of athletes with their big heads getting in trouble because they allow their egos to get in the way. Being a pioneer of a sport and having mastered it as well as she had, it would have been easy for the success to go to her head. Rest assured folks, Burke kept her cool. Revered as one of the nicest people you could ever meet, Burke was known for being a beautiful person both inside and out. I was fortunate to meet her a couple of times and can definitely say she is one of the coolest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. It surely didn’t take long for her contagious happiness to catch on. She just had this amazing smile that could brighten just about any room. She didn’t just embody all that women’s freeskiing could be, but she taught us how to live.
“That’s where we’re happiest. It is what our lives are, being on the hill, and there is a reason for that. It is where we met, where we play, where we live and hopefully where we will die.”- Burke from Winter
Her positive attitude and unparalleled passion embodied a type of person that we should all strive to be. And although her death was a solemn reminder at just how dangerous action sports can be, she reminded us to not allow fear to keep us from living our dreams. She may be gone, but she is always around us, especially on the hill. And I know that she will be smiling down on the 2014 Winter Olympics and dancing with joy as she watches the women take to the Superpipe for the first time in Olympic history. Her legacy will not only be seen in the record book, but in the hearts of the people that she inspired and in the place that she loved, the mountains. She was an amazing skier and an even better human being. Sarah Burke will be truly missed, but she will definitely never be forgotten.