Shane meant a lot to many people: The ski and base industries, his friends and family, and those who came in contact with him at some point in their lives. I personally fall into the last category. Despite the fact that I only got to spend a single day skiing with Shane, he changed my life in more ways than I can describe. Skiing has always been an integral part of my life. I had been skiing since I was 2 years old, racing since I was 8, and landed my first 360 when I was 13. That single trick marked the end of my racing career. Literally all I wanted to do was go play in the terrain park. Even before I had landed that fateful trick, I watched ski videos like Area 51, 13, and Global Storming religiously. Every chance that I had, I would stare, entranced, at the TV screen while my heroes did tricks that I could only imagine doing. I dreamed of being just like these gods on the screen, flipping and spinning in the air, landing with ease, and living the dream. There were certainly a few skiers that stood out to me. These included JF Cusson, Shane Szocs, and Shane McConkey. Then one day, I got to meet three ski stars.
I was only 14 years old at the time, and I was very excited. I got to go to copper with my parents, who I knew would let me loose on the Copper terrain park for the whole day. Little did I know that this day was special. On the third or fourth run I was in the chairlift line, and I saw them. I poked my mom, and said "Mom, look! Its Shane McConkey, Brad Holmes, and Evan Raps!" She looked at me and said, "well there are only three of them, get on the chairlift with them." I adamantly shook my head, as I was so star struck even seeing these people that I idolized up close that actually riding up the lift with them was far more than I could deal with. What if I said something stupid? What if they didn’t like me? What if I fell getting onto the chairlift? What if they thought my skiing sucked? I would be crushed forever. No, I couldn’t ride up the lift with them.
My mother, being the amazing person that she is, physically pushed me next to Shane and made me ride up with them. Eyes wide as saucers, shaking from head to toe, I got onto the lift. From that moment on I can replay the entire lift ride in my head, even nine years later. They all took an immediate interest in me, because I was wearing twin tips. For those of you just entering the sport, back in 2001 if you had a pair of twin tips you were automatically friends with anyone else wearing twin tips, since there were maybe 10 of you on the mountain. I remember telling them that I had voted for JF Cusson in Poor Boys Production movie The Game. I remember Brad putting chew into his lip. But the most important thing said on that chairlift came at the very end, when Shane said "hey you wanna take a lap with us in the park?"
I followed, excited to spend any time at all with these guys. After the first run, Brad and Evan disappeared. At the bottom of the lift I hesitated, wondering if I should go with Shane again. He saw my hesitation, smiled at me, and motioned for me to join him. The rest of the day he made a point of skiing with a kid who had just learned straight up and down, penciled out, ugly 540's. He said "try tucking your legs up when you spin, its a totally different feeling!" I ate shit. He helped me up, and spent the day teaching me how to tuck up a spin. This man who literally changed skiing in more ways than anyone else in history made a point of teaching a kid to spin on his day to ride however he wished. To Shane this wasn’t a sacrifice. In fact, the whole day he was completely focused on having fun while riding with me.
There are hundreds of people who have similar experiences. This was the magic of Shane McConkey. Yes, he was one of the best skiers in the history of our sport. Yes, he was the most innovative and influential skier of our time. But despite the fact that he regularly did things that most mortals merely dream of, he never took himself too seriously. He wasn’t above making time to spend with some wide-eyed kid who idolized him, or anyone else for that matter. This is what made him stand out from the crowd and what made him such an amazing human being.
So in memory of Shane, I ask that today everyone go do something that they really love, make someone laugh, and go jump off of something for cryin out loud!