Jan 28, 2011
Author: Feet Banks | Issue 10.3
Canada's goddess mother of freekiing, Sarah Burke, holds forth on sex, marriage, gold bikinis, cheese
and maybe even some skiing.
How to put this politely. I’ve always wanted to… um, go on a “date” with Sarah Burke. I first met her in 1999 when she was still jailbait, a cute 17-year-old working on her spins on Blackcomb’s Horstman Glacier. We’d downloaded together once and talked about hibernation patterns in the Whistling Marmot, but that didn’t really count as a date.
That summer (or the next—it gets hazy 10 years out) Sarah landed her first 1080, and word spread through the glacier camps like smallpox. From 12-year-old groms to wiry diggers to big-name coaches, everyone agreed history was being made and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer girl.
That nice girl ended up changing the face of skiing. She worked hard on her tricks, learned how to appease sponsors, and shot to both superstardom and sex-symbol status. Which made it even more diffi cult to arrange a date (famous chicks are never in one place for long and every cheese-dick with a goggle sponsor also wants a piece).
Then skiing’s golden girl moved to the States and won a bunch of X Games, perhaps not in that order (again, hazeee…). Through contests, fi lm segments, and overall awesomeness, Burke continued to push the limits of what was possible on skis and inspire both boys and girls to get out on the slopes.
And then, this past autumn, over a decade after that fateful summer on the Horstman, my chance came. SBC SKIER assigned me to take Sarah out for food, drinks and a chat. That seemed like a date to me—and a paid one at that! The kicker was that in two days she was marrying a mad skier/pilot named Rory Bushfi eld. It could have been awkward, but when we got to the food joint we ordered drinks to cover up the weirdness. Sarah likes vodka on the rocks. She’s hotter in real life, too—curvy but strong, with eyes and a smile that work together in any light. A playful face, but with secrets. Despite my banter—which was laced with sexual innuendo—Sarah remained light and genuine. Still the nice girl, despite fame, fortune and all the idiotic questions.
You look stunning. Thank you.
I feel like grilled cheese, do you like grilled cheese? I love grilled cheese. I love all kinds of cheese; it’s kinda my thing.
It’s rude to ask a lady her age so I stalked you on the Internet. Born September 3, 1982, in Midland, Ont. Happy late birthday. What’s your middle name? Jean—it’s my grandma’s name. That wasn’t on the Internet?
It will be now. Speaking of the Internet. I found some pics of you half-naked. More than half.
Waaay more. Were you happy with how all that went down? Um… I guess I have mixed feelings. It’s nice to say, “Yeah I was 93 or whatever on FHM magazine’s hottest list” but I would do it differently for sure. I really don’t like the fact that those photos come up every time you Google my name.
It could be worse. Has anyone ever approached you to do a full nude shoot? Nope.
Well, the day’s still young. But if you did one, where would your dream location be. Somewhere dark and dirty maybe… or the total opposite, clear water and sandy beaches. It’s not gonna happen though so how about moving along…
Midland isn’t exactly the centre of the ski universe—even in Ontario. What’s your worst memory of skiing as a child? There aren’t any. What’s yours?
I don’t have any either. So we have that in common, too. When you’re a kid everything is awesome. Of course now I much prefer 5,000 feet of vert over 300, and pow over blue ice, but back then I didn’t know any different. You skied rain or shine and every day on the hill was a good day.
Give me a super-fast version of your journey from Midland to being the most influential female skier on the planet over the past 10 years. Skied every day after school, met friends who skied moguls. Went to Momentum summer ski camp for moguls at age 14. Worked all summer to pay my share. Joined my ski hill’s team. At 17 was on the Ontario team. Travelled North America competing in moguls. New School started and I did Big Air comps whenever I could. Got sponsored. Finished high school and moved out West. By 18 I’d travelled the world competing with the boys. Kept going, kept pushing it. X Games, equal prize money, happy. Joined Canadian Halfpipe Team. [Looking to] Olympics.
Was it hard competing with all the dudes? Did anyone talk shit? I miss it. It was a great time in my life although not without frustrating points. It played a huge role but I am sooo much happier that there are tons of chick shredders standing up there with me now. All the guys were very supportive.
It must have been nice to come from behind and beat them sometimes. Skiing is a party sport but you obviously have to work hard. Do young kids realize how much you need to train to stay relevant and on top? I think everyone is starting to get it now. The tricks are harder and it’s more competitive, so you need to be in the gym. Is that a little sexual innuendo I detect in your tone?
Uh… okay, let’s forget about skiing. You always dress with style. What do you like better, Raquel Welch’s fur bikini in One Million Years BC, or Princess Leia’s gold bikini when she was Jabba the Hutt’s slave in Return of the Jedi? Both are pretty freakin’ hot but I’m gonna go with Princess Leia. I like the tease the fabric brings to the plate.
That question was win-win… Is it easier or more difficult being a hot girl in skiing? Easier… and not just for skiing. That’s definitely not right, or something to count on, but thus is life.
I read an interview where you’re quoted saying, “I’ll leave a guy in bed if the powder is fresh. Good sex is good sex, but powder days are seriously special.” Did you really say that? Do you think I said that? Or that I also said [dorky, robot voice], “A 900 degree rotation?” C’mon…
Now you’re marrying a guy who might be up before you on a big pow day. How often do you and Rory get to ski together? It depends on the season. Some years it’s been lots, other years, with injuries, not as much. I’m looking forward to this season.
What was your most romantic date with Rory? The way he proposed. He’d sledded out to where we first went snowmobiling and written, “Marry me Sarah” in the snow in giant Kool-Aid letters. The next day we went out in his plane and flew right over it. Yeah—beat that boys!
Touché. It helps to have a plane, for sure. But your name is iconic—will you take Rory’s last name? I’m always going to be Sarah Burke. That’s who I am, but who knows, maybe someday…
Much of being a pro today revolves around marketability, and your name is a brand. Is there pressure to say and do shit you otherwise might not, just to keep the wheels turning? For sure. But when it comes down to it you have to be strong and be who you are. If you want to do well, you gotta be the whole package—great in interviews, good on camera, and kill it on the hill. Of course, some people want it more than ever these days; being a brand brings in the cash.
Longevity is the hardest trick in this sport. What’s your secret to staying on top? I love challenging myself. That, and I think I’ve learned what I can and can’t handle. When I was younger I hucked myself off anything—if the boys were doing it, so was I. But that’s a recipe for disaster; we’re not built the same and my body just won’t take a 30-metre backcountry kicker like a guy’s will. So I scale it back to 20 metres and get a photo rather than a busted back.
You’re 28 and still ruling it. What’s next? People keep asking when I’m going to stop. I haven’t decided on a time to retire. I love what I’m doing. I’m still learning and pushing myself. The moment that stops for me, that’s when I’ll move on. Until then, look out ’cause I got some hell to raise.
If Mötley Crüe taught us anything— which is questionable—it’s that it starts to feel better and better to come home from a long trip. Agree? Well, yes. I used to spend months on the road and I loved it but now I need to come home even if for just a day. A full month on the road is my breaking point now.
I was on the glacier the day you landed that first 1080. Everyone was stoked that it went clean and that it was you. How far has women’s skiing progressed since then? It’s been slow because it was a fight to get anywhere with it for a long time. If girls don’t see it being done, or rewarded, then why bother, right? Now that we’re included and treated to equal prize money, etc., girls are coming out of the woodwork and killing it. I’m happy to see where it is today and the direction it’s headed.
And yet the Nissan Pro Tour just cancelled the women’s events. It’s frustrating and sad. I just want to give those people a shake.
What about ski halfpipe in the Olympics? You’re on an unfunded National Team set-up by the athletes. Snowboarding is in the big show, skiing is not? What up wit dat? Yeah, weird. I always dreamed about competing in the Olympics, and watching snowboarders kill it over the past couple Games inspired me so much more. Our team wants to be a part of that and I don’t believe it’s going to wreck our sport. It’s going to bring more kids to it and no one is forcing anyone into anything. You can still do your own thing and be as core as you want.
The irony is that the roots of New School/freeskiing started with a bunch of people waving a big middle finger at the FIS. And now freeskiing is literally begging to get back in. Do you ever just want to say “Forget it, you don’t deserve us.”? Not really. It’s much easier for people to trash talk than to actually give something a try. Badmouthing is the easy way out, and those people have likely never even been to a World Cup. Sure judging has been off at a few FIS events, but it’s also been off at the X Games and Dew Tour. The World Cup is well organized and pays and treats you well. I’m all for it.
Okay, would you rather eat yellow snow or ski Peak-to- Creek naked in a -20 blizzard? Yellow snow. It’s just pineapple juice right?
Surf or snowmobile? Aaahhh… gonna say surf.
Rather have one 12-pound baby or two 6-pounders? Two, hands down.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in a gondola. A lady never tells.
Have you ever made out with a chick? Who hasn’t?
What are some of the standout moments of your career? Winning X Games for the first and third time. Winning an ESPY. Getting sponsored.
Looking back, is there anything you regret or wish you did differently? I try not to live with regrets.
Scariest moment of your Life? I don’t think I’ve had it yet.
What about broadcasting? You recently did the X Games—did you enjoy it? I loved it. It’s totally different and very nerve-racking. There’s a lot to learn and take in and to improvise on but it’s something I would definitely like to pursue.
It’s important for everyone to give back in some way. What charities do you support? I’ve been working with the Women’s Sport Foundation for many years and really enjoy doing anything I can for Saint Jude Children’s Hospital.
Any advice for the millions of people who look up to you? Always go out there to have fun. It’s not about how famous you could be or how much money you might make... you have to be happy first!
What about young guys who are just starting to grow the balls to talk to a real girl? How does a young guy meet the next Sarah Burke? Get off your butt and go talk to her! She may shut you down or hey, she may even kiss you, but you’ll never know either way unless you try!
How about this date? Does it end in a kiss? Uh…
And like that, it was over. Our man didn’t get to kiss Sarah Burke, not even a peck. Probably for the best though—it’s tough to outrun a dude who has his own plane.