Canadian Freestyle Skiing Champion Sarah Burke Dies from Injuries

Posted By: The Ski Channel on January 19, 2012 11:56 am


We have just received the tragic news that champion freestyle skier and friend Sarah Burke has lost her battle against injuries incurred during a training accident in the Superpipe of Park City on January 10th. News of her condition had shocked the ski industry and the world. Since being admitted in critical condition, Sarah underwent a surgery to repair the vertebral artery torn during her crash. Reports described the procedure as a success, but Sarah’s condition remained critical over the past nine days.

Sarah Burke passed away at 9:22 am this morning surrounded by her family. A statement made by University Hospital confirms Sarah’s passing and the nature of the injuries that led to it. “As a result of the 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 severe bleeding. Emergency personnel performed CPR at the site of the accident, during which time she remained without a pulse or spontaneous breathing”, the statement said.

After performing the surgery, the attending medical team concluded through numerous neurological examinations and tests that Sarah had sustained “severe, irreversible damage to her brain caused by the lack of oxygen and blood after suffering cardiac arrest”.

Upon her passing, according to Sarah’s wishes, the family donated her organs in the hopes of saving the lives of others.

The family will not be making any other public comments about Sarah’s accident. They’ve expressed their most sincere, heartfelt gratitude for the outpouring of support received across the world for Sarah. They’ve encouraged any inquiries in regards to making donations in Burke’s name to be directed to

Sarah Burke was born on September 3rd, 1982. She grew up in Midland, Ontario, Canada to become a freestyle skier and one of the most influential female athletes to grace the sport. Her prowess in competitions not only helped her achieve four Winter X Games gold medals, but also led her to become a representative for females in the entire sport. Sarah was the first woman to successfully land a 1080 in competition, and was largely responsible for the existence of a female category in the first place.

Sarah was recognized as the “Godmother of Freeskiing”. She is respected and loved for her contributions to winter sports and culture. In 2001, she received ESPN’s 2001 Award for Female Skier of the Year and was voted 2007’s Best Female Action Sports Athlete at the ESPY awards. In addition to her successful lobbying to get women into national competitions, she recently campaigned for freestyle skiing’s inclusion in the Olympics, which has been approved for the next Winter Games. Burke would have been a favorite for the  2014 games in Sochi.

Sarah has brought so much light to the world through her love for the mountains and the sport of skiing. Through her untimely passing, the ski industry has lost an athlete and pioneer — and the world has lost a wonderful human being.

“What defines Sarah now is what has always defined her,” said Canadian Freestyle Ski Association CEO Peter Judge. “She was always very gregarious, very outgoing and popular with those around her. She is very giving in terms of her time, especially in the sport.”

From the moment Sarah suffered her injury, the entire ski industry was rallying behind the young skier. Sarah would not have made it as far as she did without this outpouring of support. From the Park City team members that immediately responded at the superpipe to stabilize Sarah at the scene of her crash, to the amazing medical professionals that received her at SLC’s University Hospital, to Sarah’s husband, pro skier Rory Bushfield, and their family members who rushed across the continent to be by Sarah’s side. Even the faithful friends and fans that took to Twitter and Facebook to lend a voice of a concern echoed across cyberspace as the world played a part in Sarah’s battle.

What is most important now is that we honor Sarah’s memory and respect the relationship she had with the mountains. Sarah would not have wanted negative connotations connected with skiing as a result of the accident. She loved pushing herself and was aware of the risks inherent in the sport that meant so much to her. It is now up to us to carry on Sarah’s work and continue pushing and progressing the sport of skiing — to help it reach the heights she knew it was capable of achieving.