Remembering Sarah Burke — Danielle Beck
I don’t even know who Sarah’s agent was at the time I got her proposal, but it was probably about two years before we actually signed her, before we even had a ski division. You know, you get hundreds of proposals, but she just stood out. It wasn’t so much even reading the words or seeing her accomplishments, but she just had this sparkle. She just looked like so much fun to be around. I was bummed to not have a program that was suited for her quite yet.
I remember when we first launched skis. There wasn’t a lot of money behind it, but I knew we needed a legit skier and there was no one else but her. There wasn’t even another option for us.
Something I’ve really always respected about Sarah was that she always made it look beautiful, even her falls. Her wins and her losses. She was riding with the guys, but doing it beautifully. That has always been something that we as a brand have looked for. It’s not just the wins and the titles, but it’s doing it beautifully and gracefully.
When we first signed her, there wasn’t a ski team and the snowboard team had been around for 7 or 8 years. And you know, girls really have their cliques. At first it was, “How is this going to work?” And we never felt 100-percent rooted in skiing because it is its own world and its own industry and its own program. So we really had to learn a whole new industry. But she was so easy to be around. I could never get enough time with her. And I never got to spend a ton of time with her, but when I did, she felt like a friend and a sister. All of us women have grown together. Whether that’s been on the sidelines as support or as an athlete, you become friends, first and foremost. It never felt like we were a burden or a chore to her, and she never felt like a burden to deal with. It was always a fun excuse to get together and have photoshoots. She just made life so easy and so fun.
I think besides seeing her on the podium, my favorite times were seeing her dressed up at an ESPN function or some gala, and you’d never think she was a skier. She was just so beautiful. You’d be blown away to see the other side of her. She was more than just a skier, it was a piece of her, but it didn’t wholly define her.
She had a really soft spirit about her, where a lot of times you see female athletes and they have a really aggressive behavior about them. She was always warm, even at competitions. Not that she didn’t take it seriously, but she was always smiling and competitions came very easy to her.
She was at the top of her sport, so everyone wants a piece of that story, but you wanted to be around her whether you were involved in the sport or not. She walked in the room, and you couldn’t help but notice her.
Sarah also had an almost a private side to her that left you wondering. There was always something deeper going on with her. Always thinking, always processing. It’s not that she wasn’t engaged, but she kept a quiet spirit to her that kept you wanting more of her time or more of her attention. As an editor, you’d want to get to the root of what drives this. She was all-around fascinating.
I look back and I’m so thankful I got to spend the time with the whole crew at the hospital. It really put so much into perspective. This is our family, and we’ve all been so blessed to have grown together and experienced these life-changing adventures that not everyone gets to experience. And you never think this is going to happen to someone in your stable, in your family.
It’s so hard to think of building a legacy for someone who touched so many people. There is all this obligation and responsibility to maintain a presence for what she’s done and what she’s accomplished. But the thing that struck me the most in terms of her legacy and what younger kids can take away: It’s not about the sport, it’s about how you treat people and how you give back.
She went above and beyond as a person to make herself accessible and tangible while still holding herself very professionally. The things that stand out in my mind the most are her going overseas to Iraq or her volunteering for the St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Skiing almost plays second fiddle to the all the things she gave back and what she shared.