The 29-year-old died on Thursday morning in a Utah hospital, nine days after falling over while landing a routine manoeuvre during a training run at the pipe in Park City.
Ms. Burke was the brightest star of a young sport: articulate and good-looking, she cultivated a high profile off the hill, designing clothing and appearing on television as a commentator, gaining a legion of fans and admirers around the world.
But despite her popularity and her long struggle to move her sport into the mainstream, those who knew her well say she retained a girl-next-door charm.
“Sarah was a person who in many ways was larger than life and lived life to the fullest,” said Peter Judge, CEO of the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association. “At the time it wasn’t in, she was not bitter and twisted...then when it was in, she was very gracious.”
The accident that killed her was sheer bad luck. She was performing a flat-spin 540, a routine trick she had done countless times before, on a well-used superpipe that has seen thousands of skiers and snowboarders over the years. Ms. Burke landed on her feet, but whiplashed onto her side. It didn’t look serious at first, but the fall ruptured a major artery in her neck.
Bleeding in her head triggered a heart attack, which starved her brain of oxygen. She was rushed to hospital in Salt Lake City. As Ms. Burke remained in a coma, her parents, husband and sister stayed by her bedside, while fellow skiers made the trip to Utah to hold vigil at the hospital. After several days of tests, doctors determined she had suffered irreversible brain damage.For a second Canadian perspective, consider this report from SportsNet.ca.