Freeskier Shane McConkey dies at 39
Ryan Summerlin March 26, 2009
SQUAW VALLEY USA ” Ski legend and Olympic Village resident Shane McConkey, 39, died today in Italy where he was filming his latest movie. The news shocked the ski community.
McConkey, who moved to Squaw from Colorado in 1994, had grown popular for his BASE jumping talents as well as his big-mountain film exploits, and had won several national and international skiing competitions, including the X Games and World Extreme Skiing Championships.
Friend Scott Gaffney had known McConkey for 15 years.
“I was pretty much floored,” Gaffney said. “Everyone is the same way. They’re floored. With what he does, you picture it happening at some point, and yet at the same time, you think it’s never going to happen. The bottom fell out today.
“He was a larger than life personality,” Gaffney continued. “He was one of the most gifted individuals you’ll ever meet, and one hell of a friend who never let who he was in the media’s eyes change him.”
Matchstick Productions, the film company for whom he worked, confirmed the death Thursday afternoon, but said they were denying comment at this time.
C.R. Johnson, 25, a professional Squaw skier who lives in Truckee, knew McConkey for about 12 years. He spoke somberly about the news: “He lived life at the highest level and to the very fullest, and for that we all admired him. It’s also a fine line to walk … But that’s how he wanted to live; it’s what made him happy.
“I’ll remember his beautiful personality. He was just strong character, for sure. … He and other athletes like him riding at Squaw were the ones who inspired me to do what I’m doing today. They made it possible.”
Gaffney said McConkey had discussed the inherent danger of base jumping and extreme skiing, but added, “He was calculated and very conscious of what he was doing. In a lot of people’s eyes, he was absolutely crazy. He took away a lot of the risks to make sure what he was doing was safe.”
In 2005, McConkey became one of the first to ever complete a triple back flip while basejumping with skis on, a trick he completed off a 400-foot drop near Lake Tahoe.
A number of media reports said that McConkey had suffered an equipment failure while he was BASE jumping, but that has not been confirmed.
On Nov. 17 Shane McConkey, Miles Daisher, JT Holmes, and Jesse Hall became the first people ever to ski BASE jump off a building when they launched themselves off the 39th floor of the Silver Legacy Casino.
Video courtesy of: http://blog.visitrenotahoe.com and Dan Dominy. Visit reno.com to see photos of the jumps.