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Saturday, January 19, 2013
Dear Sarah

By Cody Townsend
XGames.com

[Exactly one year ago, on Jan. 19, 2012, freeskiing pioneer and X Games champion Sarah Burke died, at the age of 29, from injuries suffered in a crash in the halfpipe. Her death affected the entire ski community and far beyond, but really, it was her life that left us with with the most profound memories. In this letter, pro skier Cody Townsend, a close friend to Sarah and her husband, Rory Bushfield, writes a letter to Sarah on the one-year anniversary of her death and shares our collective sentiments as we all join together again to #CelebrateSarah.]

Dear Sarah,

It's been a year since we last spoke. A lot has happened since then. Things that would have made you proud, made you smile and probably would have made you blush. You missed a lot. But I'm sure we missed you more.

First off, we've been trying to take care of Rory the best we can. But in all honesty, he's pretty good at taking care of himself. I can't even begin to imagine how pumped you'd be to see him punching double backflips on roller skis in front of sold-out arenas on the worldwide Nitro Circus tour. Or to see him pulling into unmakeable barrels in Bali, get rag-dolled through the reef and come up gasping for air but uncontrollably laughing at the same time. We are all so happy to hear his infectious cackle again. More than anything, it was something we all hoped wouldn't disappear after he lost you. You'd be proud to know he's hanging in there.

Otherwise, some of your close friends did some pretty amazing things. In February, your bud Josh Dueck became the first person to do a backflip in a sit-ski. You'd probably feel embarrassed and make us stop talking about this, but Duey did it not only with stickers of your name plastered all over his ski but with you in mind the entire ride. In fact, every single pro skier became simultaneously sponsored by a red cursive "Sarah" logoed company. You were skiing with just about everyone this past year.

You'd be proud of all the girls who are skiing so well these days. There's a 16-year-old German girl named Lisa Zimmerman doing double cork 12s now. The Nine Queen ladies were boosting higher than kite metaphors. They cranked switch 10s, Misty 9s and double-grabbed styled out 5s. They're taking the fire you gave them and lighting up the world with it. The Olympics are fast approaching and, to us, it'll always be known as Sarah's Olympics. And you made it into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, by the way. For we all know none of us would be where we're at today if it weren't for your help.

The only thing we're glad you didn't see was us all crying in unison as thousands encircling the X Games halfpipe last January in Aspen lowered their heads and millions around the world had a collective moment of silence in your honor. But don't worry, the mood was a lot less somber when there was a thousand-person moment of thunderous hooting and hollering at a massive celebration for you in April in Whistler. And after that, we continued your booty-shaking, fun-loving traditions. We still take those wretched chilled vodka shots you used to love so much just because we still wish we were partying with you.

Thousands gathered for a celebration of Sarah's life at X Games Aspen last year.

Your legacy is something you probably wouldn't care about because, from what we remember, you never cared as much about yourself as you cared for others. But your foundation, which is backing two of your passions, the Women's Sports Foundation and St. Jude's Children Hospital, has received support from thousands of individual donors, your sponsors such as Smith making pro models for your benefit, and even stars such as Lil Wayne, who designed and is selling a custom Sarah-inspired T-shirt. And that's just on the financial side.

For every single one of us is still moved by you. The person you are, the athlete you were and the better people we are because of you. For that, we will never forget you.

Sincerely,

Skiers Everywhere