Shane McConkey’s Last Great Idea

image proxy normal Shane McConkeys Last Great Idea

Shane McConkey


Shane McConkey was already recognized as one of the most influential skiers of all time when he died at 39 in a BASE jumping accident in the Italian Dolomites in 2009. One of the driving forces behind the birth and popularizing of freeskiing and the hybrid sport of ski-BASE jumping that ultimately took his life, McConkey was a gifted athlete, an innovative thinker, a charismatic leader, and also a goofball. Four years after his death, his spirit was alive at at the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of McConkey, a documentary chronicling the full scope of his life. (The film will be in wider release in Octoberl). The crowd included Shane’s family and closest friends, as well as his former co-conspirators and colleagues, a rogue’s gallery of world-class athletes and people whose job it is to ski down steep things and jump off high ones, as well as those whose job it is to film them, come what may.

I am well outside of that inner circle, but I count myself as one of the many whose lives Shane touched in a small but meaningful way. In 2005, he and his friend Miles Daisher taught me how to BASE jump off of the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho. I remember the minute before I jumped, so nervous I could barely breathe, looking to my left and seeing Shane sticking his tongue out and going cross-eyed. Tension broken. A moment later, he dropped the clownish face, clapped his hand on my shoulder, and said I was about to have the experience of my young life. He was not wrong. I bumped into him a couple times subsequently, but it was in researching the story I wrote about his life and death for Outside in 2009 that I truly came to appreciate everything Shane had been and the scope of what had been lost. So I watched McConkey with a lump in my throat, cringing while jotting down notes, like this quote from a 20-something goofy-grinned Shane,: “I’m getting maximum enjoyment out of life and I’ll never stop.”