Back in March of 2000 the Level 1 rookie crew of Scott Hibbert, Garret Brittain, Josh Novotny, photographer Jeff Winterton, and myself rallied up to Mont Ste Marie, QC, for one of our first private park shoots where we were joined by some of the local Freestyle kids in sessioning a 50-ft tabletop jump. As was the norm in this era, the sketchy takeoff was met with an equally sketchy landing, and there was far and away more carnage then landed tricks as everyone pushed, and discovered the limits of their equipment and talent.
One of the particularly enthused newcomers continued to crash 1080s, overshooting the landing, going bigger, and charging harder then pretty much anyone in our crew. On one of the rougher tumbles, their helmet popped off and a head full of now-visible long blonde hair made it clear that this was not just another one of the guys. That was our introduction to 16-year old cherub-faced Sarah Burke, who picked herself back up, hiked back to the top of the inrun, and proceeded to stomp that 10 on her next attempt.
Level 1 was lucky enough to have Burke as part of our small crew over the next few years, traveling the Northeast US and Quebec, spending summers in Whistler, and logging shots for our first few films. In the years to follow she moved on to become the singular dominant force in women's skiing- using her talents, her drive, and her smile to inspire her contemporaries, both men and women, push the sport as few others have, and open doors for the next generation that started to follow in her footsteps.
Watching her segment in our first film, "Balance," which included a few shots from that day at Mont Ste Marie, where the editing, cinematography, the music, and even the action almost seems silly and trite in retrospect, we're still reminded of some of our favorite memories and best times since we started making ski films. Knowing how far she had come, how many of her goals she had reached, and how many lives she touched since that first year makes us smile, and feel so thankful for the time that we spent with her.
To know that we'll never be graced by her smile in person, again, and to think of Rory, her close friends, family and their loss is truly heartbreaking. But knowing that each and every person that ever had the opportunity to meet her, and perhaps millions more that never had that chance are all better off because of the person she was, and what she did, makes it easier to handle, at least a little bit.
If you're inspired or able, please donate to the fund established to help her family cover medical and memorial costs, and to establish a foundation to honor Sarah's legacy and promote the ideals she valued and embodied. giveforward.com/sarahburke