Extreme skier Shane McConkey died in a freeskiing/BASE jumping accident exactly one year ago Friday. Filming in Italy for Matchstick Productions, McConkey was attempting to ski off a cliff, release his skis and parachute to the ground. According to reports about the accident, one of his skis did not release and McConkey was unable to deploy his parachute.
Given McConkey’s penchant for extremely daring feats, the accident was not a complete shock. He reportedly could not even purchase life insurance due to his career. His death was followed by tributes from the skiing community. Skiing Magazine called him the “most influential skier of all time.” Even after his passing, McConkey ranked 16th on The Ski Channel’s own Snowbiz 250, ranking the 250 most influential people in the snowsports world. K2 Skis, a sponsor of McConkey, created a limited-edition tribute ski, based on the Pontoon, a model McConkey helped create. McConkey’s home ski area, Squaw Valley USA, Calif., renamed the Eagle’s Nest run at the top of the famous KT-22 area in honor of him. The resort held a dedication ceremony there in October. The Freeskiing World Tour started the McConkey Cup, a trophy to recognize the top male and female overall champions.
In addition to his exploits in ski films, McConkey, 39-years-old at the time of his death, was known for helping start the reverse-camber revolution in ski design. Today’s rockered skis can be traced back to McConkey strapping on a pair of water skis to demonstrate his theory about the design’s feasibility in deep powder. Friends also remember his dynamic sense of humor shown through his comic character, “Saucer Boy,” a Jack Daniels-swilling alter ego.
McConkey was survived by his wife, Sherry, and their daughter, Ayla, age 3 at the time of his death.
Video: The Ski Channel Profile of Shane McConkey
(Photo courtesy of Red Bull/Graeme Murray)