Shane McConkey (1969–2009)
Skier JT Holmes remembers an innovator who changed his sport forever:
Shane was a dominant force in the world of free-skiing throughout the 1990s. He had a pro mogul tour win, and he was in dozens of ski movies as both himself and his goofball alter ego, Saucer Boy. He and I always wanted to leave a mark in skiing’s history books, and the way we did that was with ski BASE jumping — skiing off cliffs and then pulling a parachute. In a regular BASE jump, you just step off a cliff and have the sensation of falling down an elevator shaft. Ski BASE is more like getting shot out of a cannon. Then we started skiing off cliffs, releasing our skis, and opening up wingsuits to fly. That’s like getting shot out of a cannon and then transitioning into flying an F-14 — a pretty cool combination.
Shane’s final jump was in 2009, in the Italian Dolomites. Before I dropped, I said something totally meaningless like, “Mind if I go first?” I skied off this cliff, released my skis, and started flying, but was surprised that the ground came up so quick. I landed and looked up for Shane, who never came. He followed right after me with a perfect double back flip. Then one of his skis didn’t release and he went into a spin and by the time he got the ski off it was too late to pull his parachute.
Shane did all this stuff because he had a creative mind and the drive to follow through on seemingly wild ideas. Back when skis were long and skinny, he started wondering why we couldn’t carve and slide turns through powder like snowboarders. He bolted some bindings onto a pair of water skis and almost single-handedly brought about the invention of modern reverse-sidecut ski. So if you’re ever skiing powder and your legs get sore at 1 o’clock, thank Shane — because they would have been cooked at 10:30 without him.
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