Sarah Burke September 3, 1982 – January 19, 2012
It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Sarah Burke – a founding member of the AFP family, a pioneer in freeskiing, a world champion, and most importantly the best person you would encounter on any given day. Sarah’s passion, dedication, and love for skiing was only overshadowed by her love for life – exemplified by her smile and positive attitude that was constantly on display. No one in the skiing community inspired more love and admiration – and no one did it with such grace, humility and style. Sarah, you will live on with us forever. We are all better people having known you. Our thoughts go out to Rory, Sarah’s family, and the many people across the globe that were inspired by her. We will never forget you Sarah.
My heart and thoughts are with Rory and the rest of Sarah’s family. She was and will always be a huge inspiration to all of us. I feel truly blessed to have known her. She will be dearly missed, but never forgotten.
~ Chris Schuster, President & Co-Founder of AFP
Words by Chris Jerard
For my friend, Sarah
I met Sarah when she was 16 years old shortly after I joined the staff of the brand new Freeskier magazine. She was already the “it” girl in freeskiing. Actually, in 1999 she was really the only girl in freeskiing. She was incredibly talented and fearless. And there was always that ever-present smile. She was young and shy early on – but before you knew it she was giving the editors at our magazine shots in the arm, still with that same great smile, and challenging us to get the shot, ski another run, or just have more fun. Her passion for skiing was evidenced by her athletic success – and her passion for life came through like the sun. She was a light for all of us. One of those people that is universally loved. For all of those who just knew her through the movies and photos – she was exactly as she seemed. Just the best person you’ll ever meet. Pure love.
It’s impossible to deny, that by the time she was 20, she went from being a cute kid, to being simply drop-dead gorgeous. Suddenly she graduated from profiles in the ski industry standards Freeskier and Powder to being in Maxim, People and one of FHM’s sexiest athletes alive. But she played it all off as no big deal with a humbleness rarely found at her level of success – an elegance and grace that was unique to her. And yet, even with the beauty and the elegance, she was one of the toughest people Ive ever met. She once put me in a head lock. And I am not ashamed to admit I could not break out of it. And I tried. Hard. I think that memory would make her smile.
She could play with the boys. That is for sure. She had to for a lot of years in order to open up the sport for the women behind her. Her will and determination on and off the hill in this regard are legendary. Sarah was an innovator and a leader for women in skiing. And even as she had to fight for women to be considered in competition with the men, when she took her hits, she always smiled through the bruise and the bang. Both on and off the hill. In 14 years of working with Sarah – I never saw her without a smile and a good word. Not once. Ever. No matter what. That smile on the podium, holding the X Games Gold four times? That was the same smile she would give 2 months later if you ran into her on the street in passing. So radiantly genuine.
Sarah was an inspiration to so many people – but she was especially important for women athletes. She did more for the progression of woman’s freeskiing than any other single person – period. She was a founder of the Association of Freeskiing Professionals and was instrumental in helping to push the disciplines of skiing she loved, halfpipe and slopestyle skiing, into the Olympics for 2014. That will be a lasting part of her legacy forever. She pushed her sport, her profession, to the next level.
Sarah will always be around us. She will always be there to remind us to “step up” and be better. No matter if it’s skiing or giving your friend a hug. Do not hold back. Life is simply to precious and too much of a gift. Step up. Its such a powerful idea.
It was a dear friend of mine, Matt Harvey, the longtime Editor of Freeskier magazine, who reminded me of this playful challenge that Sarah so often conveyed to her fans and those around her – with such obvious joy.
The news of Sarah’s passing hit in the middle of the work day and Matt was onstage hosting a Freeskier magazine sponsored event. He was a very close and personal friend of Sarah’s. To be in public and hurting, gutted with loss, was painful. But he remembered her words, “Step up.” She would tell him this, no matter if she was standing next to him on the hill taunting him to try a jump or rail slide or pushing him to go talk to the girl across the bar later that night – she was always nudging those around her to be better. And she led by example. So when it hurt and he wanted to hide – he smiled and remembered Sarah. He dug deep and stepped up. He pushed through it and stomped it. That’s what Sarah did when they told her that girls didn’t have a competition and when she was battered from falls and when another little girl wanted an autograph hours after her last run of the day. She alwaysstepped up. Always.
And that’s what we’re going to do to remember her. Step Up. So thanks Sarah. We will. And we will remember your smile when we do.
On behalf of Rory and Sarah’s family, the following statement was released earlier today:
January 19, 2012
Groundbreaking Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke passed away at 9:22AM January 19, 2012 at the University of Utah Hospital from injuries sustained in an accident on the Eagle Superpipe at Park City Mountain Resort on Tuesday, January 10, 2012. She was training for upcoming winter events.
As the result of Sarah’s fall, she suffered a ruptured vertebral artery, one of the four major arteries supplying blood to the brain. The rupture of this artery led to a severe intracranial hemorrhage, which caused Sarah to go into cardiac arrest on the scene. Emergency personnel responded and CPR was administered on the scene during which time she remained without a pulse or spontaneous breathing. Studies in the University of Utah Hospital Emergency Department indicated that she retained brainstem function. She was placed on life support and a protocol of therapeutic hypothermia was initiated to protect her brain. An angiogram indicated the site of arterial bleeding, and on Wednesday, January 11 the injured artery was successfully repaired.
After the operation, numerous neurological examinations, electrodiagnostic tests and imaging studies revealed that Sarah sustained severe irreversible damage to her brain due to lack of oxygen and blood after cardiac arrest, resulting in hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy. Sarah passed away peacefully surrounded by those she loved. In accordance with Sarah’s wishes, her organs and tissues were donated to save the lives of others.
While early reports in the media stated that Sarah’s injury was a traumatic brain injury, it is important to note that Sarah’s condition was the result of a lack of oxygen to the brain during cardiac arrest.
The family wishes to express their deep gratitude to Sarah’s dear friends for their love and support, and for traveling to Salt Lake City to comfort the family.
They would also like to thank the University of Utah Hospital and her physicians and care team in the Neuro Critical Care Unit for their incredible care and compassion.
The family was moved by the sincere and heartfelt sympathy expressed by people inspired by Sarah from all around the world. They have received a substantial number of inquiries from those who would like to make a contribution on behalf of Sarah. For more information, please go to http://www.giveforward.com/sarahburke.
A public celebration of Sarah’s life will be held in the coming weeks.