- Devon O'Neil, Writer, Action Sports
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ASPEN, Colo. -- One week after the death of freeskiing icon Sarah Burke, her friends and former rivals held a candlelight vigil at the top of a darkened Buttermilk SuperPipe, then skied together to the base.
In addition to the somber halfpipe trip, ESPN aired a tribute Thursday night during the live Winter X Games broadcast to honor the late pioneer, who has been a constant subject of discussion in Aspen this week.
The 29-year-old Canadian, who would have been the defending champion in Saturday's SuperPipe finals, died Jan. 19, nine days after suffering an accident in the Park City, Utah, halfpipe.
Burke was among the most popular and accomplished freeskiers in history, winning six X Games gold medals. Before that she spent years lobbying to have female skiers included in the Winter X Games and played a crucial role in getting halfpipe skiing added to the Winter Olympics. The discipline will debut in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, where Burke would have been the gold medal favorite.
A number of stickers and armbands celebrating Burke's memory have circulated in Aspen this week, and many competitors, regardless of sport or discipline, have paid homage to Burke during interviews.
After Kaya Turski won her third straight Women's Ski Slopestyle gold medal Thursday, she said, "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."
Television analyst Mike Douglas, a fellow Canadian freeskiing pioneer who was close friends with Burke, said during a news conference Wednesday, "She loved the X Games. This is the family that she loved to surround herself with. This is where she was happiest."
Devon O'Neil writes for ESPN.com Action Sports.
A tribute to Sarah Burke opens the Winter X Games TV coverage on ESPN