Remembering Sarah Burke — Mike Riddle
I met Sarah as a camper at Momentum. She was a coach. I thought she was bubbly and happy. She gave me stickers right away, so I was stoked. She was super nice, outgoing and friendly.
Traveling with her as a teammate, she was very motivating. She kept pushing herself. Watching her do that gave me inspiration and motivated me to try harder.
I’m a better skier because of how much I hung out with her.
She was always the most desired coach on the glacier at Momentum. She was the happiest person out there, and there was just this vibe around her. If you skied with Sarah, you were having a good time.
When I first moved to Squamish, I was excited because we moved eight doors down from Rory and Sarah on the same street. I knew we were going to have some adventures. My goal was to go on a Rory adventure every other time. I couldn’t go every time because that would just be nuts. I was always impressed because I’d be off with Rory doing some crazy adventure, scared shitless, and Sarah would be right there with us. It takes a crazy woman to do all the stuff Rory wanted to do and be sending it as well.
They’d always have big dinners and have us over, and we’d drink tequila and play Catch Phrase. She was a fan of the big dinner party. She loved having friends over.
Anything good there is to say about a person applies to Sarah. She was caring, compassionate, always there. If you wanted to vent, she’d lend an ear. She was a good person to cheer you up on a down day.
She’d always drop by with Tim Hortons coffee, randomly, and suggest something fun to go do.
She’s inspired me to live every moment the best I can. To do unto others as I want done unto me. To live my life. To have fun doing what you’re doing and enjoy every moment of every day, whether it’s a bluebird pow day or it’s raining and you’re playing video games. And I’m going to try not to complain. It was obvious to me that anyone who had her as a coach would have nothing but the best things to say because they got to spend some time with her. What really hit home was that a bunch of kids wrote in to say that even though she wasn’t their coach—they met her on the glacier while on the T-Bar, which is literally the shortest ride ever, like three minutes—and they said she made lasting impressions on them even in that short amount of time. This is how she was. There was never a wasted moment, and if she could brighten someone’s day or impart some of her knowledge in any way, she would do it.
This year was a really tough year for me [after her passing]. I struggled all year. I was in tears at four events and didn’t know what to do. I pulled out of the event in Vermont—a lot of us did. I think it was understandable. At other events, I had emotional breakdowns when things weren’t going well. I struggled mentally. I’m doing better now. The pain subsided a bit, but I’m always going to be sad when I’m thinking of her. I will try to think of the good days and enjoy myself.
Psychologically, I’ve been dealing with fear. I’ve always thought we could get hurt doing what we do, but I never thought we could die. In the backcountry, you think of avalanches, but in the halfpipe, I never contemplated that. I’ve struggled with the realization that what we do is dangerous and you could kill yourself. But if it’s worth dying for, it’s worth the risk. You’ve got to keep doing it.
I know Sarah would want us to keep doing what we do. I realize it’s something worth dying for. I want to keep doing it.
She’d want to be remembered as an athlete—the most successful female freeskier ever. And as a great person. I think she’d want to be remembered by how she treated people.
Everyone misses her. It brought the community a lot closer. You notice it at every event. Everyone is supporting each other more than before. We’re a tighter knit family. She’s still out there with us.
— Mike Riddle: Professional Skier
About the author:
Freeskier Magazine—This is skiing.