It’s been 7 years since we lost this lovely young lady. Her name is Sarah Burke. You’ve probably heard her name. You’ve probably heard her story. I grew up skiing with Sarah and this is our story. ORIGINALLY UPLOADED FEB 2014

In 1999, I sat in on a radio show in North Bay, Ontario with a guy named Dan Delorme and from that moment on I knew that I always wanted to be a radio guy. But before this snowy afternoon in northern Ontario, I had a different dream. I was going to be an olympic freestyle skier!

I’m on the right – Junior Ontario Provincial Champion

I learned how to ski in 1993 and caught on to it pretty quick. Within a few weeks of learning to stand on two boards, I was flailing my poles in the air and taking as many jumps as I could; going as high as I could. While convincing my friend to stand behind a jump so I could soar over him, someone pulled me aside and asked me if I wanted to take a weekend mogul/aerial course to learn how to jump properly so I don’t kill myself… or anyone else. Little did I know that I had started on a course of life that would cross paths with Sarah Burke numerous times in many different cities, provinces and even states.



I met Sarah Burke for the first time in 1995. I remember it pretty clearly. It was at the Eastern Canadian Championships in Wakefield, Quebec at Edelweiss Ski Hill. I was at the top of the mogul run on a training day getting ready to go down when she skied over. She had long blonde hair snuggled under a toque that was flapping in the wind (I’m not kidding, it was like a movie) and I’m almost positive that some Marvin Gaye was playing in the background; although there was absolutely no speakers around so it must have just been in my head. After starring at her for what seemed like hours, she said “well, are you going to go?’ HAHA I snapped out of it and skied down.


That night, at an athletes dinner we actually met face to face when I apologized. As a beautiful woman whose face was mostly covered on the ski hill, she was even more beautiful in person. For the rest of that season, we would bump into each other at each competition making sure to say hello and cheer each other on. Of course she was always WAY better than I was. It was later that season that Sarah landed her first 720. That’s jumping in the air and spinning 2 full rotations. Most guys were barely doing it and Sarah was landing them with ease. She had this crazy ability to spin in the air faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. At the end of the season, we exchanged email addresses and kept in touch over the summer months.


A few years later in 1998, Sarah and I were among a small group of Ontario athletes who went to Lake Placid, New York for the summer to learn how to do inverts. That’s ski lingo for flipping in the air. For weeks we lived together in an athlete motel and lived and breathed aerial skiing down plastic ramps into a pool.



By this time, the sport of freestyle skiing (moguls & aerials) was just starting to take off and get popular. In the 1999 season, there were record amounts of competitors and competition began to get really stiff. I skied my last season as a decorated mogul/aerial skier and hung up my boots for dreams of one day getting to work at a real radio station. Sarah kept on with the sport. Before I knew it she was on the covers of magazines, featured in ski movies and was becoming a house hold name.



In 2001 I moved from Mattawa, Ontario to Toronto and attended Humber College’s radio program. With starting my new chapter in life and Sarah embarking on hers, we grew apart. We went from chatting on ICQ(Remember ICQ?) on a weekly basis to emailing a few times a year.


In 2004, I got the opportunity of a lifetime! I had been working at a rock radio station in North Bay, Ontario when I got a call from a program director in Squamish/Whistler, BC who said he wanted to give me a job and a free pass to Whistler Blackcomb. “Are you kidding me? You’re going to let me do radio in Whistler and ski every day?” The program director said yes and two weeks later I was in my car driving across the country to live a lifestyle with the 2 things in life I love the most. I left all my family and friends so I could move to a place that I always dreamed about living in.


I lived in Squamish, BC and worked at Mountain FM from 2004 – 2011. For the first few years, I skied as much as I could while developing my skills as a young broadcaster. After spending time in Squamish and Whistler, I realized how small the world really is. I was continually running into people from my past ski career on a regular basis. One night I stopped in at a 7 Eleven in Squamish. If you’ve ever driven the Sea to Sky Highway, you probably know the one I’m talking about. I was in there to pick up a few ski magazines and a quart of orange juice to enjoy of a few glasses of vodka with. As I’m looking through the magazine rack, I see a blonde girl directly across from me filling a small plastic bag with an assortment of 1 cent candies. We locked eyes and I quickly looked away, but not before thinking to myself, ‘hmmm, she looks familiar.’ I looked back up to see these big blue eyes starring at me with a smile running across her face. “Ro-Bear?”  Yes, that was a nickname of mine when I skied that I’ve been trying to keep from you. I grew up in a french community and that’s how they say Robert. We hadn’t seen each other in about 5 years. I think we must have talked in 7 Eleven for about an hour before realizing that she lived just a few doors down from me in the same townhouse complex. Ever since that day, we made a much better point to keep in touch. She came on the radio with me from time to time and we’d get together for a quick hello or meet up at the downtown farmers market.


Old friends, back in touch, living in the same community. It was a nice feeling to see a familiar face in a town 5000 km’s away from all family and friends. By this time, Sarah was a very busy girl. She would spend her summers on the glacier inspiring young girls to be confident on the slopes and in everyday life. Without Sarah’s push, there would have been no halfpipe event for the women. I can’t begin to tell you how compassionate of a person she was. She put everyone before her and really wanted to see the progression of women in sport, but not for herself, she wanted it for the generation of female skiers that would come after her. In all the years, in all the competitions, in all the high & lows, I had never seen Sarah Burke without a smile on her face.



The last time I saw Sarah Burke I was shopping with my wife (then fiancée) at Shoppers Drugmart. Our wedding was only a few months away and Sarah had married Rory only a few months prior. Sarah had just undergone surgery on her shoulder and was in a sling. We talked about weddings, laughed and said our goodbyes with a hug.



The Sarah Burke Foundation, set up by family and friends, is committed to the altruistic ideals embodied by Sarah’s life and her actions. The foundation will preserve Sarah’s goodwill and her actions, by supporting and inspiring current and future generations. All support will allow us to carry on Sarah’s spirit and legacy by supporting others in sport and future generations.



I’ll never see Sarah again. It took a while for that to sink in, but I’m OK with it now. She lives on in the pictures and memories I have and the stories I share with my family and friends. A few weeks ago, I saw Sarah. Yup, I was up at Mount Seymour with my 6 year old niece Kristin and when I looked back to see if she was keeping up, sure enough Kristin was right there. A confident slash of the snow as she came to a stop at my feet, she said “Uncle Rob, will you teach me how to go off a jump now?” Yup, Sarah lives on in my niece and every other little girl who dares to push themselves. She lives on in anyone who has ever inspired people around them. I’m proud to have known Sarah as a friend and even more grateful that I can share her stories with my niece who maybe one day will grow up to inspire millions just like Sarah did.




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