There will never be another Shane McConkey. He was daring, creative, instantly likeable and intensely sincere - the alpha skier that others sought to imitate, as well as the wily veteran who stayed on top of a rapidly changing game for almost two decades. If anything, you could almost say McConkey improved with age.
He is internationally famous for a lot of reasons, from signature moves like barrel rolls off of cliffs, to his recent innovations in combining the sport of big mountain freeskiing with his passion for base jumping. With the ability to fly, almost no big mountain line was impossible.
McConkey died on March 26 while filming a segment for Matchstick Productions in Italy. The scene involved skiing a steep line, then dropping off the 600-metre Sass Pardoi cliff in the Dolomite Mountains. Fellow freeskier J.T. Holmes did the same line moments before McConkey, who planned to follow up with a double backflip off the edge and a short flight in his wing suit before pulling his ripcord. It was an extreme stunt, but McConkey was a veteran of over 700 base jumps and almost certainly had more ski-base jumps to his credit than anyone in the world.
The stunt went wrong early when McConkey's skis failed to release when he tugged on his release straps, forcing him to release his bindings manually or risk having his chute tangled in his skis. According to a report on Matchstick Films website, he succeeded in removing his skis and opened his chute, but he had fallen too far and was killed instantly when he hit the ground.
McConkey, 39, is survived by his wife Sherry and his three and a half year old daughter Ayla, as well as his parents Jim and Glen. Jim was a legendary freeskier and head ski instructor in Whistler from 1968 to the early '80s. Shane's step brother, George McConkey, continues to live in Whistler and is co-owner of McCoo's.
While he lived full time in California, McConkey still came to Whistler regularly to film for various companies - mostly MSP - and to visit the slopes he grew up skiing. When the Peak 2 Peak Gondola opened in December, McConkey christened the lift by jumping from a gondola cabin at its highest point over the ground.
According to Whistler Blackcomb spokeswoman Christina Moore, McConkey himself approached Whistler Blackcomb about the stunt, and kick-started discussions with McConkey's sponsors at Red Bull.
Today, April 2, friends and fans of McConkey are invited to a tribute service at Dusty's at 7 p.m., organized by his longtime friend Shane Szocs. Admission is by donation and all proceeds will go to McConkey's family.