In a huge break from tradition, the Winter X Games in Aspen opened quietly and in the dark on Thursday night as fans, friends and family honored the life and legacy of Sarah Burke, the 29-year-old Canadian freeskiing icon who lost her life on January 19. With bright white glowsticks overhead, more than 100 of her peers drifted slowly down the darkened superpipe in front of a still crowd that fell completely silent.
Burke was a six-time winner known for breaking barriers in the superpipe, and was supposed to be defending her latest X Games gold in the superpipe this week, but her life was cut short after she succumbed to injuries suffered in a training accident. Her loss has been a devastating blow to a shocked skiing community, as she was even more of a moving force off the mountain.
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As a staunch supporter of the women’s movement in freestyle skiing, and it was Burke’s efforts that helped propel the sport into the X Games in 2009, and gain acceptance into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
“Everything she believed in is on this mountain tonight,” said Winter X emcee Sal Masekela. “Competition, excellence, progression.”
Bumper stickers and arm bands with slogans paying tribute to Sarah can be seen all over Aspen. Earlier in the day, after fellow Canadian Kaya Turski won her third-straight gold in Women’s Ski Slopestyle, she vowed to champion Sarah’s cause. “We have someone watching from above that we need to make proud. We all need to follow in Sarah’s footsteps. She was pushing the sport even when she didn’t need to; she was trying new tricks, landing new tricks, and I think now it’s our turn to keep pushing for her.”
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