On January 19, 2012, the skiing world changed in an abrupt and tragic way when Sarah Burke—freeskiing’s queen and inspiration to countless skiers—passed away after succumbing to injuries suffered during a routine training session at Park City. Sarah’s passing dealt a crushing blow to the freeskiing community. The industry lost a guiding light in Sarah, a beautiful reflection of what a professional skier—and person—could be.
Sarah was there in freeskiing’s ragtag beginning, competing at big airs and US Opens of yore. She was the principal figure in getting the women’s halfpipe event added to the X Games—and then in getting women’s slopestyle included five years later. Never content with “good enough,” she led by example, building her legacy with X Games medals, an FIS Globe, an ESPY, Dew Tour wins, US Open titles, Euro Open victories, multiple film segments, SOTY awards… The list goes on and on and is a testament to her remarkable talent.
But our idols are not measured in wins and trophies. Yes, Sarah was a champion, but she was so much more than a list of achievements. She was a kind soul, warming any room she entered. She was a generous veteran, mentoring the next generation of skiers. She was a graceful competitor, experiencing victory and defeat with equal poise. She was feisty, attacking each day with extraordinary zest and vigor. She was beautiful, intoxicating everyone who caught a glimpse of her. In essence, she was the best of us. An excellent teacher, a lofty role model, a boisterous supporter, and the best friend anyone could have asked for. The smile she flashed so often lured us in, and we never wanted to let go—even now, when tragedy has taken her from us.
Sarah’s legacy and inspiration will never fade. She will live on. In our hearts and our memories. At the top of mountains and the bottom of halfpipes, we will think of her and smile.
In the following pages you’ll find first-hand accounts of what Sarah meant to those who were closest to her. You’ll also find notes from people whom she touched, for as little as a day. You’ll read accounts of ski history that testify to her commitment and passion for the sport.
In what little way we can, we pay reverence to you, Sarah. Thank you for all you’ve given us.