Thursday, March 26, 2009

Shane McConkey (1969 - 2009)

Matchstick Productions

March 26, 2009

MSP Films painfully announces the loss one of the most innovative, gifted, entertaining and inspirational figures in the history of skiing. Shane McConkey, 39, died while performing a ski BASE jump off the Sass Pardoi cliff in the Dolomite Mountains in Italy.

J.T. Holmes, a close friend and long-time jump partner of McConkey who had jumped the 600 meter cliff moments before Shane, said McConkey performed a double backflip from the cliff and planned to release his skis and then fly in his wingsuit, a stunt he's executed a number of times. But when both skis failed to release upon tugging on straps leashed to his legs, McConkey went into an upside down position as he manually attempted to release his bindings. Because throwing a chute while inverted poses the likelihood of the canopy and lines becoming entangled in the skis, McConkey used valuable seconds to focus on removing both skis and succeeded. He quickly turned into a classic, face down BASE jumping position to throw his pilot chute (which pulls out the main canopy), but after 12 seconds of freefall he struck snow immediately before there was time to react. He was killed upon impact.

Shane McConkey is survived by his wife, Sherry, 3 1/2 year-old daughter Ayla, and his parents Jim and Glenn.

McConkey’s passing leaves an entire industry reeling from the news. He starred in 15 MSP movies including the heralded “There’s Something About McConkey” and was honored as “The People’s Choice” for Male Skier of the Year three years in a row. As one of the most versatile skiers in the history of the sport, in his 17-year professional freeskiing career McConkey won everything from mogul tour events to big mountain competitions to skiercross races to big air events. One of the most forward thinking individuals in the sport, in the mid 1990s, McConkey singlehandedly convinced the ski world to get on fat skis to ski mountains faster and more easily and--seeing that skiing powder is more akin to floating on water--he proceeded to convince his ski sponsor, Volant, to produce a reverse sidecut, reverse camber ski he dubbed the Spatula that flew in the face of decades of ski design. Knowing the ski would be scoffed at by the industry establishment, McConkey illustrated his point by mounting a pair of 1970's jumping waterskis and shredding a massive British Columbia peak with ease in MSP’s film, “Focused,” and inadvertently gave rise to a functional sliding turn now fondly referred to as a “McConkey Turn.” Today, nearly every reputable ski manufacturer produces a reverse sidecut, reverse cambered ski born from the Spatula.

In the latter stages of his career, McConkey discovered BASE jumping and quickly became the forefather of ski BASE jumping, seeing potential to ski lines never thought possible. His ski BASE feats included a quadruple backflip off of a 400’ cliff and culminated in a classic ode-to-James Bond chase scene in the film, “Seven Sunny Days.”

But beyond a hard charging, cliff hucking, trick-inventing, mind-blowing skier and BASE jumper, McConkey was a constant entertainer. Countless magazine articles and film segments revealed a man who enjoyed the lighter side of life. When a season was cut short in 1997 by a knee injury, McConkey gave birth to Saucerboy, a saucer-riding, Jack Daniels swilling character who brought hilarity to an otherwise serious ski film industry as he appeared in several MSP films. McConkey's comedic, fun-loving personality was ever-present on screen and off. His positive, seize-the-day demeanor affected anyone who had the fortune of meeting him.

Last year at 38 years old, McConkey turned in one of his finer performances of a lifetime in the film, “Claim,” revealing that age and a career filled with injury had done nothing to slow him down. As he said emphatically in the film, “I’m Shane McConkey, dammit, and I’m not done yet.”

Shane McConkey was an incredible influential figure in two distinct sports, and he was a brother for the MSP Films crew and thousands of people whose lives he touched. His loss will be felt the world over as he leaves a void that simply can never be filled. As one fan put it, “It feels like Superman died.” He basically did.

--Scott Gaffney


Photo courtesy of Shane's friend, colleague, and fellow BASE jumper J.T. Holmes, taken 3.26.09.



In addition to the posted article, here is McConkey's video segment from Matchstick Production's movie Push:

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