Extreme athlete Shane McConkey dies at 39 | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Extreme athlete Shane McConkey dies at 39

Ryan Slabaugh and Sylas Wright, Tribune News Service

Court LeveShane McConkey died Thursday in Italy.

SQUAW VALLEY USA ” Ski legend and Olympic Village resident Shane McConkey, 39, died Thursday 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 declined additional comment.

Todd Offenbacher, an outdoor adventurer, RSN host and creator of Tahoe Adventure Film Festival, was stunned upon learning of McConkey’s death while on a ski trip to Canada.

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“It’s horrible news, and I’m just devastated,” said Offenbacher, who became friends with McConkey through his BASE jumping adventures. “Everybody loved Shane. He was always pushing the limits of sports, creating new sports and creating good energy out there.

“On the lift today I was just talking about Shane and what a cool person he is. He was James Bond kind of cool. He didn’t try to be cool, but he was.”

McConkey’s thorough prep work always impressed Offenbacher.

“He was incredibly calculated with his preparation. Absolutely nothing reckless with what he did in the sport,” Offenbacher said.

McConkey proved that he was meticulous and safety conscious when he called off a BASE jump at the 38-story Silver Legacy Resort Casino in Reno. He later executed the feat.

“There was a big trade show, and everybody was there, and it was marketed that he was going to do this thing,” Offenbacher said. “He waited and waited, looking at the wind, and called it off. There was a lot of pressure for him to do it, but he was willing to walk away because the conditions weren’t perfect.”

C.R. Johnson, 25, a professional skier out of Squaw Valley 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 backflip while BASE jumping 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.

” Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling contributed to this story.